Despite promises to ban the illegal trade of pangolins, the Chinese government continues to allow the use of pangolin scales for traditional medicine, according to a report from a watchdog agency.
The report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) showed that online sales platforms like eBay and Taobao continue to advertise pangolin products and pharmaceutical companies, including the leading China Beijing Tong Ren Tang Group, continue offering pangolin items.
According to the report, 221 companies are still licensed to sell pangolin scale products and 56 of these companies are actively advertising medicinal products containing pangolin online. Around 713 hospitals are licensed to manufacture and sell these products and a total of 64 products listing pangolin as an ingredient are advertised on manufacturer websites.
After scientists identified the pangolin as a possible intermediary host of COVID-19, the Chinese government removed pangolin scales from the official list of approved ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and gave the species the highest possible protection status.
“Amid mounting concerns about the role of wildlife trade in causing the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that the Chinese Government ends all legal use of pangolin scales, instead of allowing the multi-billion dollar TCM industry to carry on as usual,” said Chris Hamley, the Senior Pangolin Campaigner for EIA.
“By keeping the door open for the TCM industry to exploit pangolins, the Chinese Government is undermining international efforts to end the global pangolin trafficking crisis and fueling transnational organized crime,” Hamley added.
Pangolins are “one of the most illegally traded mammals on the planet” driven by the unproven idea that a broth containing the scales has medicinal qualities.
Pangolin populations in China have declined by more than 90% since 1960. The slaughter and smuggling of pangolins have spread to Southeast Asia and Africa to meet the demand for pangolin products. Around 200,000 pangolins are consumed each year in Asia, The Guardian reported.
EIA’s report has revealed major loopholes in China’s commitment to banning pangolin products and protecting endangered wildlife due to public health concerns.
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