Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammal. Curling into a ball when threatened leaves these unique animals particularly vulnerable to poaching. Over time and through our Tiger and Elephant campaigns, our investigators have encountered organised crime groups that also traffic pangolins. In 2018, we launched our Pangolin Project to help protect the world’s only scaled mammal.
Pangolins have existed on Earth for about 60 million years, but over recent decades their wild populations have declined dramatically. In the past 10 years alone, more than a million pangolins are believed to have been taken from the wild in Asia and Africa. This is primarily because of poaching and illegal trade to supply consumers locally and internationally with scales and meat. Scales are used in traditional medicines and for jewellery, particularly in east Asia, and the meat is consumed across Africa and Asia as a subsistence and delicacy food.
If the illegal pangolin trade continues at such industrial levels, it is thought that another 10 years might see them wiped out altogether. The trade is enabled by a range of factors, but legal domestic markets in demand countries, corruption and weak law enforcement play a major role.