Pangolin, animal linked to coronavirus, removed from China's list of traditional medicines
China has officially removed pangolin scales from its list of approved ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine for 2020, several media reports.
According to the country's state media, the latest version of the Chinese pharmacopoeia for 2020 no longer contains the pangolin, which most scientists claim to have transmitted the coronavirus as an intermediate animal of bats to humans.
Pangolins are small mammals covered with scales that live in Asia and Africa. According to Peter Li, an associate professor of East Asian politics at the University of Houston-Downtown, his scales are sometimes used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine to increase fertility, and his meat is also considered a delicacy by some.
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The armadillo-like animal is protected under international law, but it is still widely traded as "one of the most illegally traded mammals in the world," says the Environmental Investigations Agency, which has been sold an estimated 1 million times in the past 15 years.
Just last year in Zhejiang, the authorities arrested 18 smugglers and confiscated 23.1 tons of pangolin scales, which according to Chinese state media come from an estimated 50,000 creatures.
Zhou Jinfeng, secretary general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Fund, said that China's native pangolins had been virtually wiped out. In the past five years, Zhou and volunteers have found only five in which hundreds of thousands lived three decades ago.
Recent conservation efforts have helped protect the eight species of pangolin found in Asia and Africa that are threatened by illegal international trade. At the beginning of this month, China ordered its highest level of protection and also banned the cultivation of psoriasis in captivity.
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The National Forestry and Grassland Administration's order of June 5 did not specifically mention the outbreak as the reason for the measure, but the timing seems to suggest that it could be part of China's nationwide response to the wildlife trade after the pandemic.
The trade in wild animals such as bats and psoriasis has been associated with so-called zoonotic diseases that jump from animals to humans.
Zhou said the new protection gives groups like him the right to sue companies and individuals that sell pangolin scales. However, he wants to go one step further by releasing all pangolins caught in China into the wild and burning all confiscated pangolin scales, much like Kenya burned confiscated elephant tusks to end the illegal trade that continues today.
Contributors: Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY; Associated Press. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
This article originally appeared in the U.S. TODAY: China removes pangolin from the 2020 list of traditional medicines: COVID
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