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Pangolin officially removed from Traditional Chinese Medicine list

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China has removed the use of pangolin scales and other parts used for preparing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and raised the animal's protection level from second-class to first-class protected animals (same level as the Giant Panda), announced the Chinese Pharmacopeia Commission on Tuesday.

According to the latest version of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, "depleted wild species will be withdrawn from the pharmacopoeia." Pangolins are believed to be one of the world's most endangered animals and the world's most illegally trafficked mammal. Last year alone, authorities seized more than 130 tonnes of pangolin related products, a figure estimated to represent up to 400,000 animals, according to conservation group WildAid.

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Pangolins are scale-covered insectivores, about the size of a house cat, that are highly valued in Asia for their meat and scales. There are eight species of pangolin found in Asia and Africa. To date, three species are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature --- the Chinese pangolin, Philippine pangolin and Sunda pangolin, which is found across southeast Asia. The remaining five species, including the Indian pangolin, are listed as either vulnerable or endangered.

Pangolin scales on sale in illegal markets

Although pangolin scales are made of keratin -- the same material found in human fingernails and rhino horn -- Traditional Chinese Medicine used it to improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation.

In 2007, China started banning pangolin hunting in the wild and stopped commercial imports of pangolins and pangolin products in 2018. But the animal's unique value as a TCM medicine and lax punishment for eating them have led to the continued hunting of Pagolins.

China has already restricted wildlife trade, banning ivory and rhino horns trade in 2017. Since the novel coronavirus outbreak, farming of wild animals has also been restricted in the country.

A series of research papers suspected pangolins as intermediary hosts of the COVID-19, acquiring the virus from bats, but the evidence establishing the connection between the two remains doubtful.


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