There is a need for governments to enforce legislation and support public campaigns aimed at enhancing conservation of pangolins amid threat of extinction, campaigners said on Saturday during celebrations to mark World Pangolins Day.

“We are concerned that poaching, coupled with the pangolins’ natural slow rates of reproduction, are pushing them to the brink of extinction,” World Animal Protection, an international conservation lobby said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The World Pangolins Day was marked globally amid concern about their rapidly declining numbers linked to illegal hunting for their scales and meat as well as climatic shocks.

Campaigners said the scaled and nocturnal mammal that is native to nearly 51 countries remain the most hunted and trafficked due to their scales that are considered to contain medicinal properties.

According to World Animal Protection, more than one million pangolins are believed to have been killed and traded between 2000 to 2013 for medicinal purposes.

The conservation lobby said that there were 1,270 seizures of trafficked pangolin reported in 67 countries and territories across six continents between 2010 to 2015.

It said that 120 tonnes of body parts, whole animals, scales and 46,000 carcasses were netted during the seizures in the first half of the last decade.

“Urgent action is needed to save these shy nocturnal anteaters,” said World Animal Protection.

The African and Asian continents are home to eight pangolin species whose levels of poaching have outpaced one of the giant land mammals like elephants and rhinos.

Currently, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) considers pangolin so threatened that it has listed it in Appendix 1, which includes other threatened species like African grey parrots, Asian elephants and tigers.

Edith Kabesiime, wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection, said that a global crackdown on poaching of pangolins should also involve public education to debunk the myths about medicinal properties of their scales.

She said that illegal trade in pangolin meat and scales poses a grave public health challenge across the world.

She said that a total ban on trade in pangolin scales and meat combined with the promotion of alternative herbal therapies is key to halting their extinction. Enditem

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