KARACHI: China's move to strengthen protections for the Chinese pangolin could offer the world's most trafficked mammal an important respite from its illegal trade, WWF said on Saturday.

The decision comes at a time when the global Covid-19 pandemic has brought the risks of consuming such wildlife, often sold in illegal and unregulated markets, into sharp focus.

On Friday, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration announced that it is upgrading the protection of native Chinese pangolins from second class to first class, the same protection level as the giant panda. The move is strongly welcomed by WWF which has been advocating for strengthening pangolin protection measures for several years.

Pangolins have been in the spotlight in recent months due to several research studies which suggest they may have transmitted Covid-19 from bats to humans because they harbour coronaviruses similar to the one which started the present global health pandemic. However, these links have not been proven conclusively.

The decision to upgrade the protection level of the Chinese pangolin means that all eight species are now covered under first class protection in China, which is expected to strengthen the focus on pangolin monitoring, rescue and conservation in China. The upgrade is also expected to help ensure stricter enforcement of wildlife laws and penalties to address the rampant illegal trade and poaching of pangolins.

Pangolins are highly prized for their meat and unique scales. The announcement also provides an impetus to the ongoing efforts to increase public awareness on the need for pangolin protection.

Populations of Asian pangolins are estimated to have declined by up to 80 per cent in the last 10 years with the Chinese, Malay and the Philippine pangolins among the critically endangered pangolin species on the IUCN Red List.-PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020