The Plight of the Pangolin – the world’s most trafficked mammal

18th February 2022

To mark World Pangolin Day 2022, CCI partner TRAFFIC, shares a new video of Sir David Attenborough to raise awareness of the plight of the pangolin – the world’s most trafficked mammal. 

New data from TRAFFIC  confirms that at least 23.5 tonnes of pangolins and their parts were trafficked in 2021 alone. All eight species of pangolin are listed on the IUCN’s red list of threatened species and prohibited from international commercial trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Roasted pangolin scales have historically featured in some traditional medicine treatments for detoxification, to drain pus, relieve palsy, and stimulate lactation. More recently pangolins have also been consumed for their meat, skins, scales and claws, and demand is now decimating pangolin populations worldwide.

“Pangolins are very important in the whole ecosystem that we have… If you lose pangolins you upset all sorts of things but the sheer humanity of not looking after such a beautiful gentle animal as a pangolin breaks my heart.” Sir David Attenborough

Work is being done across the CCI partnership to protect these precious animals.

Just a few months ago, researchers within the University of Cambridge reported on a new study into Nigeria-linked seizures of pangolin product, revealing that over the last 11 years products from potentially up to almost a million dead creatures had been found in intercepted shipments there.

The CCI Arts, Science and Conservation Programme has also explored this concerning issue. Artists in Residence Ackroyd and Harvey collaborated with CCI partner IUCN to produce their Penny Pangolin artwork, prompted by the IUCN red list of threatened species.

TRAFFIC too is taking action across the pangolin supply chain to reduce the threat:

  • investigating the motives behind those that poach and traffic pangolins to inform solutions
  • delivering demand reduction campaigns in Asia
  • maintaining a database of trafficking statistics and mapping emerging wildlife trade trend

Renewed efforts must be made to reduce consumer demand for pangolin products if we are to protect these shy, elusive animals, so vital to Asian and African ecosystems, from disappearing. ” said Richard Scobey, TRAFFIC’s Executive Director.

“Beyond reducing consumer demand however, international and national legal frameworks need to be strengthened and law enforcement needs to be increasingly robust and supported if, collectively, we are to conserve the future of pangolins.”

TRAFFIC’s efforts to reduce demand for pangolin products include those through USAID supported ‘Saving Threatened Wildlife’ activities with the Traditional Medicine community and government leaders in Viet Nam, and through the ‘Kind Dining’ campaign in Thailand.

African countries are often implicated as the origin, predominantly of scales, heading to Asia. However, TRAFFIC is also tracking the domestic trade of these protected species’ as source sustenance within Africa. This species has been found for sale in TRAFFIC’s recent Bushmeat Trade studies in Tanzania and Cameroon and The Republic of Congo.

More information about the plight of the pangolins can be found through the Oryx, the international journal of conservation produced by CCI partner Fauna and Flora International.


A live pangolin in a bushmeat market in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Photo: Andrew Walmsley/Traffic