It is cause for some celebration that all trade in the reclusive pangolin, the world’s only scaled mammal, has been banned following the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) which gathered in Johannesburg over the past two weeks in an attempt to save a species rapidly nearing extinction.
Prized in Africa as bush meat and regarded as a delicacy in some Eastern nations – where the pangolin’s keratin scales are promoted as having medicinal values in traditional cures – the global population has been decimated, with estimates of a million of the largely nocturnal animals being trafficked last year alone.
What remains to be seen, though, is whether the blanket ban imposed by Cites has any discernible effect on the continuing slaughter of a species whose major defence is either to employ the ungainly characteristic back legs balanced by the tail to escape or to roll into an scales-outward ball.
All previously imposed sanctions have had little effect if the frightening figures of the slaughter are even partially accurate.
Cites, as a body, deserves our full support, but it must be remembered that noble intentions are one thing, carrying them out another issue entirely.