Photo via the Guardian
2,090 frozen pangolins headed for trade on the black market were just intercepted by the Chinese authorities, in what may be evidence of a burgeoning effort to scale back such activity. The pangolin is an endangered species of anteater that's considered a delicacy in China, and its scales are believed in Chinese folklore to aid breastfeeding mothers. In all, 8,000 tons of dead pangolins and other exotic animals were seized from poachers, the gruesome event reflecting both the severity of the illegal animal trade and the authorities increased boldness in thwarting it.
As you may be aware, China is a major hotbed for the trade of endangered and exotic animals. Bears, rhinoceroses, a variety of reptiles and amphibians and other endangered animals considered delicacies or thought to have medicinal properties routinely fall victim to the black market. It's a major contributor, along with habitat loss, to the wide decrease in many of these animals' populations. While such poaching is technically illegal, authorities in China have long been lackadaisical at best and willfully negligent at worst in tackling the widespread practice.
And while such activity remains rampant, and much of it surely continues unimpeded, recent years have seen a spate of attempts to head of the poaching. Financial incentives and awards have been made available to authorities who clamp down, and a small but increasingly vocal conservation movement has cropped up in the giant nation. And it may be just in time -- if not too late -- to spare some animals like the fast-vanishing pangolin.
The Guardian reports:
As a result of demand, the pangolin populations of China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have been virtually wiped out. With traders moving further and further south, the animal is declining even in its last habitats in Java, Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula. It is a similar story for many species of turtle, tortoise, frog and snake.So while it is good news indeed that a seizure of this magnitude has been made, it will likely take a concerted effort -- and greater awareness about the destructive nature of the exotic animal trade in Asia -- to keep animals like the pangolin from falling of the map.
More on the Endangered Animal Trade
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Four Worst Places to be an Endangered Species