Breaking! New Lawsuit To Force The Trump Administration To Stop The U.S. Pangolin Trade Filed By Coalition of Animal Welfare Organizations

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A coalition of wildlife groups filed a  notice  of intent today to sue the Trump administration for failing to propose pangolin protections under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  

These adorable scaly mammals from Asia and Africa are in grave danger of extinction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that protections for pangolins may be warranted in response to a 2015 petition filed by the groups. But the agency has failed to take any further action despite mounting evidence of threats to the species. 

Sadly, there is a massive demand for pangolin scales, which are erroneously believed to have curative properties in East Asian medicine. Sadly, their meat is also consumed as a “delicacy” in some Asian countries. 

Today’s filing follows several massive seizures of pangolin scales and other parts in Asia earlier this year, representing tens of thousands of dead pangolins, despite an international ban on such trade. 

“Poachers are killing thousands of pangolins a week, so these unique, scaly mammals desperately need our help,” Sarah Uhlemann, International Program Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “If we don’t halt the massive trafficking of pangolin parts, they could vanish in decades. The U.S. has to do its part to shut down the global pangolin trade and save these extraordinary animals.” 

Pangolins are the world’s only mammal with scales. They are also the world’s most trafficked mammal. Between 2004 and 2014, more than a million were illegally traded; an average of nearly 300 animals being killed each day. Continued poaching and trade have driven population declines throughout the pangolins’ range.  

In 2016, nations around the world agreed to ban the international trade in pangolins and their parts under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Yet this year, 28 tons of their scales were seized in Singapore and another 33 tons of pangolin scales and bodies were seized in Malaysia.  

“It is past time for the United States to take action to curb the illicit trade in pangolin parts,” said Jeff Flocken, Humane Society International President and co-author of the 2015 listing petition. “The poachers who are driving the world’s most trafficked mammal to extinction are not dragging their feet, so neither should the Fish and Wildlife Service.” 

Most illegally sourced pangolins are destined for markets in China and Vietnam, but the United States also drives demand. At least 26,000 imports of pangolin products were seized in the United States between 2004 and 2013, and a 2015 report by Humane Society International found “medicinal” products containing or likely to contain pangolin parts openly for sale online and at U.S. stores. 

If pangolins are protected as endangered under U.S. law, the import and interstate sale of all pangolins would be prohibited in the United States, unless such activity can be shown to promote the conservation of the species.

A listing would also heighten global awareness about the importance of conserving the species and make funding available to further protect pangolins in a number of ways, including anti-trafficking and habitat conservation efforts.

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