Animal groups say that almost a million pangolins have been traded for food and medicine since 2000 as evidence grows that the illegal trade was to blame for the coronavirus.
The meat of the pangolin is regarded as a delicacy particularly in China and Vietnam, and the animal’s body parts are also popular in Chinese medicine.
But recent research by the South China Agricultural University reveals that coronavirus which is a zoonotic disease that is passed from animals to man was originally found in bats, from where they believe it moved to pangolins and then on to humans.
The researchers found that the coronavirus samples taken from humans had a 99 percent identical match to a virus found in pangolins. It is believed the pangolins would have been infected by ingesting at saliva or faeces while eating their favourite food, insects.
The revelation comes as a wildlife watchdog said pangolins, also known as the scaly anteater, have been heavily poached for years in bio-diverse South-east Asia and are being increasingly targeted in Africa.
They estimate about 895,000 of the shy and nocturnal pangolins had been smuggled to fuel the trade between 2000 and 2019 in South-east Asia, and reportedly more than 96,000 kilogrammes of the creatures scales were seized in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam between 2017 and 2019.
Kanitha Krishnasamy, director for Traffic in the region said: “Not a day goes by without a wildlife seizure taking place in Southeast Asia, and all too often in volumes that are jaw dropping.”
In 2016, the pangolin was given the highest level of protection by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
With the decision in the 2016, all trade in the mammal are banned but in many ways this has increased the animals value for smugglers who can charge vast sums for the meat and parts to be used in medicine.
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Story By: Sofija Dizdarevik, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Asia Wire Report
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