The world’s most trafficked animal may be among the few winners of the global COVID-19 pandemic, if markets in Gabon are anything to go by.
The pangolin is a small anteater-like animal that has been poached to the point of near-extinction for its meat as well as its scales, which are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as meth production. It’s also thought to be the missing link in the transmission of coronavirus between wild bats and humans in Wuhan.
Conservationists hoped this association would succeed where decades of policing, bans and public engagement campaigns have failed, persuading customers – especially buyers of Chinese medicine – to stop purchasing illegally trafficked pangolin. In Gabon, where the poaching of pangolins is rife there has been a glimmer of optimism on that front. According to AFP, sales of pangolin in the markets of Libreville, the capital, have plummeted.
While this is a positive step forward, neither the wildlife trafficking trade nor poaching of endangered African animals have subsided overall as a result of the pandemic. In China and Loas, rhino horn and products made from other critically endangered species are now being sold, illegally, as miracle cures for COVID-19.
Wildlife trafficking is a $26 billion industry – one of the biggest illicit trades in the world – and one that thrives in economically deprived areas where jobs are scarce. The pangolin may have fallen out of fashion, but with the pandemic ushering us into the next global recession, African wildlife will be be more at risk than ever.
Photo by Ninno Jack Jr on Unsplash