After Beijing’s announcement of a total ban on the sale and consumption of the pangolin, the novel coronavirus outbreak in China may end up saving one of the world’s most trafficked animals
The scaly mammal listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) as threatened with extinction is a traditional delicacy across China and much of southeast Asia.
Following research linking the critters with the transmission of coronavirus to humans in the outbreak epicentre of Wuhan, Chinese officials on Monday slapped a ban on eating wild animals.
The measures, intended to halt the spread of the virus that has infected over 80,000 people worldwide and killed more than 2,700, could end up helping a number of endangered species but only if the ban holds long term.
“I applaud the ban, as we see that the Chinese government is determined to change a thousand-year-old tradition which is so inappropriate in today’s society,” said Jeff He, China director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
“I think the ban is an important Step One for wildlife conservation in China.”
He called for “stronger and more progressive revisions” of China’s existing wildlife protection laws.
Beijing implemented similar measures following the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, but the trade and consumption of wild animals, including bats and snakes, made a comeback.
“I do think the government has seen the toll it takes on national economy. Society is much bigger than the benefit that wild-eating business brings,” said He.
The pangolin, the most trafficked mammal on Earth, is prized for its meat and its unique scales, which are said to have medicinal properties.
Peter Knights, CEO of the WildAid charity, said that while China’s ban was welcome, a global effort was required to end the drastic decline in the world’s pangolin populations.
“The only question is what will happen in the longer run,” he said.
“We hope that China can lead the world in banning these markets globally.”