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03 Mar 2024, Edition - 3155, Sunday

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4,000 Pangolin scales seized; trafficking thrives despite demonetisation

U Bharath


While demonetinsation has had a fallout in business in general, the illegal trade in pangolin scales does not seem to have been hit and in fact, continues to flourish, according to conservation experts.

The meat of the critically-endangered pangolins or ant eaters (family Manidae) are consumed as a delicacy and its scales are in great demand in folk medicine in south China and Vietnam, paving the way for the decimation of the species from Indian forests.

“Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world despite it being listed in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora),” says Dr Prayag, a conservation expert, who has rescued many pangolins from the wild.

The latest string of seizures is an indication of the volume of the illegal trade. One person was caught with 3.5kgs of pangolin scales by the assistant conservator of forest in Usilampatti near Madurai, while four other traffickers were arrested and 2.5kg of pangolin scales confiscated in Coimbatore on November 27.

In another intervention by TRAFFIC INDIA (a conservation initiative of WWF and IUCN), 2.5 kg of scales were seized in Madhya Pradesh and the offenders taken to task, recently.

“It is shocking that 4,000 pangolin scales were seized recently. Young animals have been targeted by these poachers and wild traffickers as the adult population is being decimated from our forests, and Pangolin might go extinct soon, if the illegal trade is not stopped forthwith,” says Dr Prayag.

Major trafficking hauls have included seizure of 10,000 kg of pangolin meat from a Chinese vessel that ran aground in the seas near Philippines, and 650 pangolin scales found in freezers when police raided a home of an Indonesian in August 2016.

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