Pangolin market booming

Illegal trade of “scaly anteaters” on the rise

The illegal trade of pangolins—often described as “scaly anteaters”—has taken off in recent years due to rapid economic growth in China, where the mammals’ scales are used in traditional medicine, a report finds.

Chinese enforcement officials worked with researchers from the UK to analyze records of pangolins seized by smugglers, according to BBC News. The research team discovered that 2.59 tons of scales—representing about 4,870 pangolins—along with 259 intact pangolins either alive or dead have been seized since 2010. The study’s authors also noted that pangolin scales are currently worth approximately $272 per pound, twice the amount they traded for in 2008.

“The numbers of pangolins traded are shocking, and all the more so considering the pharmaceutical pointlessness of the trade,” said David Whyte Macdonald, director of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and co-author of the report.

Of the eight species of pangolins, two are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and four are listed as near threatened.