China has granted “level one” protection status to all species of pangolin, effective immediately, according to a statement Friday by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration. The decision will potentially allow for harsher punishments to be meted out to poachers, while increasing authorities’ oversight powers.
Environmentalists within and outside of China have long advocated for greater protections for pangolins, which wildlife experts have called “the most trafficked mammals in the world.”
Prized in China both as a delicacy and for their supposedly medicinal properties, three of the eight known species of pangolin are listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; an additional three are categorized as “critically endangered.”
The announcement marks only the second time China has adjusted an animal’s protection level since introducing a list of protected species in 1989.
Previously, the Chinese pangolin had been categorized in the country as a level two protected species. Other species of pangolin were not explicitly included on the list, though their international trade for commercial purposes became illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, to which China is a signatory, in 2016.
“Upgrading (pangolins’) protection level shows the urgency and importance of protecting pangolins,” Zhang Li, a professor at Beijing Normal University, told Sixth Tone. He added that the upgraded protection level will bring greater safeguards, including harsher punishments for smugglers.
China last adjusted a species’ protection level in 2003, when forestry authorities upgraded the status of all musk deer. The animals are prized in the country for their use in medicines and perfumes.
More than 11,000 pangolins have been hunted over the past decade in China, according to a report from TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organization established by the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Editor: Kilian O’Donnell.
(Header image: Zhang Bin/IC)