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May 6, 2016

Survey Results in China Reveal Strong Public Support for Pangolin Protection

Aita Foundation and Humane Society International poll reveals 90 percent of Chinese public want pangolins protected

Humane Society International, Aita Foundation

  • Pangolin at Tikki Hywood Trust in Harare, Zimbabwe. Tikki Hywood Trust

More than 80 percent of Chinese public agree that consuming pangolins for food or for medicinal purposes should be banned, according to a new poll by the Aita Foundation and Humane Society International. Additionally, 90 percent of those surveyed expressed their willingness to partake in pangolin protection activities.

Aita and HSI released the poll on the Chinese public’s attitude toward pangolin consumption and conservation status in a joint public forum in Beijing on Thursday. The groups urge crucial safeguards for these vulnerable species.

The survey found that some of the reasons behind pangolin consumption include treating business guests and showing status, in addition to popularly-held beliefs stemming from commercial promotion alleging pangolins’ tonic or medicinal properties.

Toby Zhang, executive director of the Aita Foundation, said, “Pangolin populations worldwide are decreasing rapidly, including the Chinese pangolin which is rarely seen in our country. Despite the precarious status of pangolins, consumption of pangolins in China is increasing. What is even more worrisome is that young people are the primary users of pangolins and their products, according to this survey. This surprising finding underscores that public education campaigns on pangolin protection are urgently needed.”

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While China has a regulated domestic stockpile of pangolin scales, evidence points to increasing imports of pangolin scales into China. According to the CITES trade database, China imported 7.25 tons of wild pangolin scales for commercial purposes between 2009 and 2014, from both Asia and Africa. This data does not include the massive amount of pangolins and their products seized during that period. Furthermore, illegal intercontinental trade of pangolins from Africa to Asia is thought to be increasing.

Helen Nash, an expert from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Pangolin Specialist Group, said during the forum, “There is evidence from Cambridge Journals that in the first six months of 2015 alone, eight tons of pangolin products were seized en route from African countries to Asia.”

Iris Ho, wildlife program manager for HSI, noted, “Pangolins are the latest victims of the wildlife trafficking crisis after elephants and rhinos. The timing of this survey is opportune as proposals to protect pangolins under CITES were submitted last week. We urge the government of China to support these CITES proposals to give pangolins the highest level of protection under the treaty, a move that would protect pangolins from international commercial trade and that would reflect the will of the Chinese public.”

Aita Foundation also announced its plan to release an animated video about pangolins in the near future, as well as a Chinese version of HSI’s “I’m a Little Pangolin” children’s book. Jiang Jien, CEO of leading market research firm, Horizon Key, announced the results of the opinion poll.

Survey results are available upon request.

The poll surveyed a representative sample of 1,892 Chinese adults from February 14 through March 18, 2016. Margin of error is +/- 3 percent.       

Media contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras, rcontreras@humanesociety.org, +1 301-721-6440