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LONDON: A new report by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Smoke and Mirrors, reveals the extent to which the Chinese Government is supporting the continued use of pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammal.
Four months ago, Chinese State media reported that pangolin scales had been removed from traditional medicines – but a new investigation has found it is still business as usual.
EIA’s Pangolin Product Survey 2020, detailed in the report, identified:
- 221 companies licenced to sell pangolin scale products;
- 56 of these companies actively advertising medicinal products claiming to contain pangolin online;
- a total of 64 products listing pangolin as an ingredient advertised on manufacturer websites;
- six of these products available via e-commerce websites.
Some of the products were found on e-commerce sites, including eBay and Taobao, with international shipping to the US, UK and other countries.
One of the companies identified is China’s largest traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) pharmaceutical company, China Beijing Tong Ren Tang Group Co Ltd, which has subsidiaries across the world and whose shareholders include major European and US investment funds.
Chris Hamley, EIA Senior Pangolin Campaigner, said: “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.
“The Government claims the pangolin scales used in medicines come from a national stockpile – but it is a stockpile shrouded in secrecy and never seems to run out. Demand is being met by trafficking from across Africa and Asia; the vast majority of pangolin scale shipments seized from illegal trade are ultimately bound for China.
“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 organised crime.”
Earlier this year, EIA warned that while pangolin scales had been removed as a raw ingredient from the country’s 2020 Pharmacopoeia – an official reference book on traditional Chinese and Western medicines – they remain listed in some of the book’s patent medicine formulations.
The EIA investigation further found that while pangolin scale ‘yinpian’ (semi-processed scales) was removed from the list of products covered by State medical insurance in 2019, the insurance scheme has actually added an additional patent pangolin scale treatment to its list – ‘weiling guci gao’ – and continues to cover four patent medicines containing pangolin scales that were on the 2017 list.
“China urgently needs to amend its Wildlife Protection Law so that it fully prohibits the acquisition, sale or possession, including for medicinal purposes, of all parts and products of pangolins and other globally threatened species,” said Hamley, “including those from captive-bred sources.”
Scientists earlier this year suggested that pangolins may have been an intermediary host in the transmission of coronavirus between animals and humans.
The EIA report highlights how many stakeholders in China are already calling for the existing wildlife consumption ban to extend beyond food and include the medicinal use of wildlife.
“Most TCM medications do not use the body parts of globally threatened wildlife and experts in the field have proposed specific herbal substitutes that can replace pangolin scales,” added Hamley.
The report further urges shareholders to review their investments in the companies named in Smoke and Mirrors and to divest from these if they do not cease the use and sale of pangolins and other wildlife threatened by trade.
CONTACTS FOR MEDIA
- Chris Hamley, EIA Senior Pangolin Campaigner, via chrishamley[at]eia-international.org
- Paul Newman, EIA Press & Communications Officer, via press[at]eia-international.org
- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
- Read and download Smoke and Mirrors at https://eia-international.org/wp-content/uploads/EIA-Smoke-and-Mirrors-2020-FINAL.pdf
- In June 2020, EIA exposed that, following a report in China’s State media about the removal of pangolin scales from the country’s TCM pharmacopoeia, while pangolins had been removed from a section listing key TCM ingredients, they were still included as an ingredient in patent medicines.– https://eia-international.org/news/despite-the-headlines-chinas-government-still-promotes-pangolin-scales-in-traditional-medicines/
- In April 2020, EIA exposed how 24 companies in China were using the bones of endangered leopards in traditional medicines – https://eia-international.org/press-releases/24-firms-in-china-exposed-for-using-bones-of-endangered-leopards-in-traditional-medicines/
- Image of pangolin products for media use:
Caption: Examples of patent pangolin scale products identified by EIA as being advertised online by pharmaceutical companies in China (“pangolin” circled in red in ingredient listing). The deer head green labels on the products indicate they contain pangolin scales approved for use by the Chinese Government. Left, Liyangling Pian (利咽灵片) produced by Tong Ren Tang Technologies Co Ltd (北京同仁堂科技发展股份有限公司制药厂); right, Guiling Ji (龟龄集) produced by GuangYuYuan Chinese Herbal Medicine Co Ltd (山西广誉远国药有限公司).
Environmental Investigation Agency
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Tel: +44 (0) 20 7354 7960
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环境调查署（Environmental Investigation Agency）
地址：62-63 Upper Street, London N1 0NY, UK
电话： +44 (0) 20 7354 7960