BEIJING: China has removed pangolin from its official list of traditional medicines, days after increasing legal protections on the endangered animal.
Pangolin scales were left out of the official Chinese Pharmacopoeia this year, an official listing of ingredients approved for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
The pangolin is the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal and is thought by some scientists to be the possible host of the novel coronavirus that emerged at a market in China’s Wuhan city last year. As many as 200,000 pangolins are consumed each year in Asia for their scales and meat.
Trade in all eight species of pangolin is protected under international law while three of the four native to Asia are included on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered species, including the functionally extinct Chinese pangolin.
Its body parts fetch a high price on the black market as they are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, although scientists say they have no therapeutic value. China’s forestry authority on Friday gave pangolins the highest level of protection in the country due to its threatened status.
China has banned the sale of wild animals for food, citing the risk of diseases spreading to humans, but the trade remains legal for other purposes including research and traditional medicine.
There has been uncertainty whether wildlife will still be allowed for use in traditional medicine and the fur and leather industries. More clarity is expected once China finalises and approves revisions to its wildlife protection law possibly next year.
The World Wide Fund for Nature strongly welcomed China’s move to upgrade protections for the pangolin, calling it an important respite from the illegal pangolin trade.