• Zimbabwe game reserve guide Matius Mhambe holds "Marimba", a female pangolin weighing 10kgs that has been nine years in care at Wild Is Life animal sanctuary. (AFP / AAP)Source: AFP / AAP
In a bid to save the world's most poached species, a UN wildlife convention approved a ban on the trafficking of pangolins.
Shami Sivasubramanian

30 Sep 2016 - 12:33 PM  UPDATED 30 Sep 2016 - 12:33 PM

Pangolins are one of the most unique-looking animals on Earth. Found primarily in Asia and Africa, the small mammal with a scaly armoured pelt looks a lot like a industrial rodent. Unfortunately, its one-of-a-kind hide makes it one of the world’s most trafficked animals.

Reportedly, over a million pangolins have been killed within the last decade alone.

But this Wednesday in Johannesburg, delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (or CITES) approved a ban on the trade of seven out of eight species of pangolins. CITES is a UN-affiliated wildlife conference. 

That’s 183 countries bound by the ban to stop trafficking the threatened mammal.

Pangolins are in high demand for their meat and keratin-rich scales. Extracts from their pelts are used in traditional Asian medicine which claims the scales can cure cancer and aid weight loss. However, there is no scientific evidence backing up these claims. 

Their hide is also used in designer luxury items, such as handbags and clothes.

CITES protects over 35,000 species of endangered animals, however, the threat of illegal poaching does still exist.

That means enforcing the new ban may prove harder than hoped. Still, the ban is a great stride forward for the conservation of such a unique species as the pangolin - the only mammal we know of that wears scales on its back.

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