On top of the damage a Chinese fishing vessel had caused on World Heritage-listed Tubbataha Reef off Palawan in early April, Philippine authorities have reportedly made a striking discovery in the ship’s cargo hold — hundreds of frozen anteaters or pangolins. All eight species of the pangolin are considered to be in danger of extinction and are protected under international laws according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature.
“We found 400 boxes containing anteaters aboard the vessel, and we are now determining where these came from,” coast guard spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo told AFP.
He could not say whether the pangolins were frozen alive, or had already been butchered as meat.
A protected species, pangolins are widely hunted in parts of Asia for their meat, skin and scales. In China, they are known as a delicacy and are purported to have medicinal qualities.
China’s voracious appetite for exotic animal products to satisfy demand for ingredients for its many traditional medicines, its people’s taste for rare delicacies and materials for superstition-driven ornaments and jewelry is legendary. This historically precedes its now also growing demand for minerals and fuel to feed its growing heavy industry which is making extractive industries the new cash cow of many Third World countries and even First World countries like Australia.
From shark fins to rhino horns you name it, the Chinese can make a product out of it that pushes the right buttons in a vast market for medicinal whims and culinary eccentricity. With China’s billion-plus population rapidly becoming more affluent and, with it, a diaspora of compatriots in ethnicity worldwide numbering in the millions, much of the bang for the buck spent on efforts to curb the trade of endangered animals and their parts could lie in changing culturally-ingrained mindsets among Chinese consumers.
The annual consumption of traditional remedies made of tiger bone, bear gall bladder, rhinoceros horn, dried geckoes and a plethora of other animal parts is of phenomenal proportions. It is believed that today at least 60 per cent of China’s billion-plus inhabitants use medicines of this type.
The booming economies and personal incomes of Southeast Asia have caused demand and prices to soar, lifting the international trade in wildlife products to an estimated $6 billion-a-year business.
In status-conscious Chinese society increased affluence can only exacerbate the problem…
It is no wonder then that this newly affluent population has had a great effect on wildlife numbers and the demand for tiger parts. In many places in China, tiger parts are a delicacy that is served at special private banquets.
The use of endangered tiger products and their medicines is seen as a symbol of high status and wealth.
…worse, the increasing economic and cultural power of the Middle Kingdom is exporting this taste for exotic rare fauna to the West.
In addition, in recent years there has been a resurgence in traditional practices fundamental to the history of Chinese society. This has been fueled by cultural pride, and a growing sentiment that western medicine contains some shortcomings in treating illness.
Furthermore, new communities around the globe including non-Asian communities, are supplementing traditional Chinese medicine treatments into their western style of medicine, igniting the demand for tiger parts beyond what can be supplied.
Pangolins and pangolin products are specially prized for their meat, purported medicinal properties, and as stuffed souvenirs. As such they have reportedy become “the most frequently seized mammal in Asia’s illegal wildlife trade.”
Pangolin populations have suffered from illegal trafficking due to superstitious belief in Asia that their ground-up scales can stimulate lactation or cure cancer or asthma. In May 2007, 31 pangolins were found aboard an abandoned vessel off the coast of China. The boat contained some 5,000 endangered animals. On 26 May 2012 Thai customs officials rescued 138 pangolins being smuggled in a pickup truck.
The Guardian provided a description of the killing and eating of pangolins: “A Guangdong chef interviewed last year in the Beijing Science and Technology Daily described how to prepare a pangolin: ‘We keep them alive in cages until the customer makes an order. Then we hammer them unconscious, cut their throats and drain the blood. It is a slow death. We then boil them to remove the scales. We cut the meat into small pieces and use it to make a number of dishes, including braised meat and soup. Usually the customers take the blood home with them afterwards’.”
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted off Wikipedia.org and used in accordance with that site’s Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License consistent with the same license applied by Get Real Post to its content. Photo courtesy SavePangolins.org.]