Growing demand of Pangolin in China, Vietnam pushing poor Indian farmers into Illegal Trade

A growing demand for the scales and meat of the endangered pangolin in Vietnam and China is pushing poor farmers in India's north-east into the illegal trade, says a new report.

Pangolins are known as the world's most highly-trafficked mammal and their body parts can get large huge money - even the poorest hunters in north-east Assam can make a full year's salary with a single pangolin, said the researchers from World Animal Protection (WAP) and the University of Oxford after a long two-year investigation.

The report said that, of 141 people who were questioned in 31 villages in 10 months duration, “all but two of the hunters confirmed hunting pangolins for personal as well as the commercial purpose”.

David Macdonald, professor of wildlife conservation at Oxford University also told that "Scales from just 1 pangolin can give a life-changing amount of money for people in these communities. But it's in no way sustainable and the numbers of pangolins are beginning to fall,"

The report also documents the brutality pangolins undergo as they are hunted from their burrows or smoked out of the trees and beaten continually on the head. Alarming footage obtained by the WAP shows how poachers are beating a pangolin with a machete and boiling it before removing its scales.

A Profitable Trade

In India, under the Wildlife Protection Act, selling pangolins for commercial gain is illegal whereas poaching is punishable with detention of 1 to 6 years, plus a fine. A worldwide ban on commercial trade in pangolins was issued by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016.

Despite all this, growing demand of pangolins is pushing poor people in Assam to hunt and sell these mammals to urban middlemen, who then sell them to buyers in China and Vietnam.

According to an NGO working on wildlife trade, TRAFFIC, about 5772 pangolins were seized in India between 2009 and 2017. Globally, over 1 million pangolins were killed and traded from 2000 to 2013. And in between 2010 to 2015, there were 1270 reported seizures in 67 nations and territories across 6 continents, as per the report.

Furthermore, all the 8 species of pangolin - 4 African and 4 Asian - are endangered with extinction in 51 nations where they live.

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