All 8 Species of Pangolin Being Eaten to Extinction

The IUCN Red List has changed the Ground Pangolin in Africa from Least Concern to Vulnerable, highlighting the threat of extinction to this and the 7 other species of pangolins.

New findings reveal that all eight species of pangolin, the world’s only scaly mammal, are now threatened with extinction. According to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the pangolin is literally being eaten out of existence.

More than one million individuals are estimated to have been poached from the wild over the past decade, which makes pangolins the most illegally traded mammal in the world, warns the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group.

Despite a commercial trade ban for wild-caught pangolins in Asia, the illegal trade is thriving. Consumers are willing to pay increasingly high prices for their meat, which is being served as a luxury food across many countries in Asia. In traditional Chinese medicine, pangolin scales are also believed to treat a wide variety of conditions including psoriasis and poor circulation.

A Ground pangolin — one of the eight species declared threatened with extinction.

A Ground pangolin — one of the eight species declared threatened with extinction.

The illegal trade in pangolin species has reached an epic scale, with the Chinese and Sunda pangolins now classified as Critically Endangered. As the populations of the four Asian pangolin species plummet, traders are now turning to Africa to meet the growing demand.

“All eight pangolin species are now listed as threatened with extinction, largely because they are being illegally traded to China and Vietnam,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and Conservation Programmes Director at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

The IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group is today launching a new conservation action plan which lays out the steps that need to be taken to clamp down on the illegal trade and secure the future of pangolins in Asia and Africa.

Dan Challender, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, says: “Our global strategy to halt the decline of the world’s pangolins needs to be urgently implemented.

“A vital first step is for the Chinese and Vietnamese governments to conduct an inventory of their pangolin scale stocks and make this publicly available to prove that wild-caught pangolins are no longer supplying the commercial trade.”

The new action plan ‘Scaling up Pangolin Conservation’ focuses on protecting pangolin strongholds in Asia and Africa, helping local communities move away from poaching, the strengthening of legislation, and most importantly, understanding and reducing consumer demand.

“The world cannot sit by idly as pangolins are driven to extinction,” says Paul Thomson, co-founder of Save Pangolins and Vice Chair of Communications for the IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group. “The new IUCN Red List updates and action plan are important in raising awareness about the severe threats facing these extraordinary animals. We commend enforcement agencies who are intercepting illegal shipments of pangolins, and we urge more support for pangolin conservation efforts on the ground.”

> Watch the video accompanying the release of the action plan:

Species / Previous status / New status 
Chinese pangolin  (EN) (CR)
Sunda pangolin  (EN) (CR)
Indian pangolin  (NT) (EN)
Philippine pangolin  (NT) (EN)
White-bellied pangolin  (NT) (VU)
Giant pangolin  (NT) (VU)
Ground pangolin (LC) (VU)
Black-bellied pangolin (LC) (VU)

EN = Endangered
CR = Critically Endangered
NT = Near Threatened
VU = Vulnerable
LC = Least Concern