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'Not banned it at all!' China's latest medicine list STILL includes wildlife ingredients

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Pangolins have been under threat for decades from poachers, as their scales are used in Chinese Traditional Medicines (TCM), leading to some species in Asia becoming “critically endangered,” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Though illegal to poach and trade, pangolin meat is prized as a delicacy in parts of China, which has led to the underground black market force-feeding the animals to increase their weight and price, and, in some cases turning to the African continent to solve the problem. On February 24, China announced an immediate ban on trading and eating many wild animals, including pangolins, and officials began shutting down wild animal markets across the country, after pangolins were linked to the recent coronavirus outbreak.

In early June, reports surfaced that the reforms had given pangolins the “highest level of protection” claiming China had removed the scaled mammals from its list of approved ingredients for TCM.

But, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says it has discovered “they’ve not been banned at all” and that pangolin scales are still listed as an ingredient in patent medicine formulae found in the official reference book.

The agency reported in June: “EIA has obtained a copy of the 2020 pharmacopoeia and can confirm that while pangolin has been removed from a section listing key TCM ingredients, it is still included as an ingredient in patent medicines – meaning the government continues to legitimise and promote the medicinal use of pangolin scales.

“EIA researchers cross-referenced entries in the 2020 pharmacopoeia with the 2010 and 2015 editions and identified eight patent medicine formulae which still list pangolin scales as an ingredient, including Zaizao Wan, which comes in pill form and is used to help blood circulation, and Awei Huapi Gao, a treatment used to relieve, among other things, abdominal pain.”

China latest medicines list shows its wildlife trade is alive and kicking

China latest medicines list shows its wildlife trade is alive and kicking (Image: GETTY)

Pangolins are poached for their meat and scales

Pangolins are poached for their meat and scales (Image: GETTY)

Chris Hamley, EIA Senior Pangolin Campaigner, said in June: “Now that it is clear pangolin scales remain in the pharmacopoeia, it is essential the government of China takes unambiguous, credible and decisive action to fully ban the use of pangolins in TCM.

“This should include the complete removal of pangolin scales from the pharmacopoeia, an end to the licensing of the production and sale of medicines containing pangolin scales and the destruction of all pangolin scale stockpiles. 

“Without comprehensive action to eliminate demand for the use of pangolin scales in TCM in China, the ongoing industrial trafficking of pangolins and concurrent decimation of wild populations will continue.

“Recent steps taken by the Chinese government to strengthen pangolin protections are a positive move and we applaud the work of those in China campaigning to close the country’s domestic pangolin scale medicine market.”

READ MORE: Facebook and Google removing MILLIONS of adverts as China’s online wildlife trade surges

Pangolin scales are used in TCM

Pangolin scales are used in TCM (Image: GETTY)

Pangolin scales are in high demand for use in TCM, a major driver of illegal trade from across Africa and Asia into China.

The 2020 pharmacopoeia also continues to include leopard bone and bear bile as officially recognised ingredients. 

Speaking to Express.co.uk on the report, Paul de Ornellas, Chief Wildlife Adviser at WWF-UK, said: “The demand for pangolin parts and products is the key driver behind the illegal trade that makes pangolins the world’s most heavily trafficked wild mammal. 

“International trade is illegal for all eight pangolin species but despite this, they are all threatened with extinction, with three of the four Asian pangolins listed as Critically Endangered. 

“If we are to secure a future for these incredible creatures, we must work to change consumer behaviour, stop the trade and allow populations in the wild to recover.”

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Wuhan has moved to ban wildlife trade

Wuhan has moved to ban wildlife trade (Image: GETTY)

Since China’s Wildlife Protection Law of 1988, which allowed the “domestication and breeding of wildlife,” millions have relied on the trade as a source of livelihood and Dr Richard Thomas, an expert in wildlife trade monitoring at Traffic told Express.co.uk in May that the problem in Asia’s trafficking roots runs deep.

He fears the illegal trade is increasingly moving online.

He said: “Most of our staff are based in Asia, so we have big offices in Kuala Lumpur, China, Vietnam and Japan

“We do a lot of physical market monitoring, where my colleagues will go and have a look around a market and see what’s for sale.

“But we also do a lot of work monitoring online sales, to see what’s taking place there.

Pangolins are the most heavily trafficked animals in the world

Pangolins are the most heavily trafficked animals in the world (Image: GETTY)

“Out of that, we have become involved with the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, which includes major companies like Google and Facebook, but started with the Chinese companies Baidu and Alibaba.”

The coalition was set up in 2018 by Traffic, the WWF and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to bring together e-commerce, search and social media companies across the world to combat wildlife trafficking online with a target to reduce activity by 80 percent in 2020.

This bold and ambitious goal inspired 34 global technology companies to join forces with the leading wildlife organisations and proactively tackle the trafficking and sales of items including elephant ivory, tiger fur, rhino horns, pangolin scales, turtle meat and other exotic animals kept as pets or killed for their claimed benefits in traditional medicine.

Upon joining the coalition, companies submit a confidential, platform-specific action plan to address the unique threats on their platform as the situation is ever-evolving with the use of code words and other covert tactics.

A report from March, shared with Express.co.uk, showed 3,335,381 listings had been removed across the board thanks to artificial intelligence and 470 individually trained cyber staff members had flagged 4,500 wildlife products and identified 1,170 suspicious wildlife code words.

Wuhan, which is believed to be the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, has banned the consumption of wildlife as food. 

The municipal government put a notice on its website detailing the changes, declaring the city a “wildlife sanctuary” and the authorities are also “prohibiting” wildlife hunting and “controlling” breeding of wildlife species. 

Meanwhile, the authorities promise a “crackdown” on the illegal trade in wildlife and to “strengthen” education on the issues of wildlife protection. 

The ban will be in place for five years.

Two central provinces in China – Hunan and Jiangxi – also announced plans recently to “buy out” farmers breeding wildlife.   



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