Mong La's illegal pangolin trade booming, says watchdog

The illegal trade in pangolins and their meat and scales is booming in lawless Mong La on the border with China, a leading environmental watchdog has found.

The thriving pangolin trade in the town, notorious for its brothels, gambling joints and wild animal market, is outlined in a study co-authored by TRAFFIC and published in Global Ecology and Conservation on December 31.

Surveys by the study’s authors of Mong La’s morning market, wildlife trophy shops and wild meat restaurants in four visits from 2006 to 2015 clearly indicated that the town was a “significant hub” in the pangolin trade. During the visits the authors found 42 bags of scales, 32 skins, 16 foetuses or pangolin parts in wine and 27 pangolins openly for sale.

The study said pangolins sold in Mong La included animals sourced from Myanmar and neighbouring countries and potentially africa, because ivory, rhino horn and hippo teeth have all been observed at the market in recent years.

Mong La is the capital of Special Region 4 in eastern Shan State and caters exclusively for the Chinese market, where demand for pangolins is high. 

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The trade in pangolins and their parts is prohibited by law in Myanmar, said TRAFFIC.

It said all asian pangolin species are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wld Fauna and Flora (CITES) with a zero-quota, which means international trade is not allowed.

“Ongoing demand and unopposed wildlife crime networks are pushing all four of Asia’s pangolins towards the brink of extinction” said Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s regional director in southeast asia.

“Collaboration between governments in Asia is needed to reduce cross-border trade significantly, to prevent these amazing species from being lost forever,” Dr Shepherd said.

TRAFFIC urged the Myanmar government to liaise with regional authorities to tackle the illegal pangolin trade and to resolve the illicit cross-border trade of wildlife. 

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