Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 15, 2015

Contacts:  Abby Berman (IFAW), (646) 695-7044,
Raúl Arce-Contreras (HSI/HSUS), (301) 721-6440,
Rodi Rosensweig Zimmerman (Born Free USA), (203) 270-8929,  
Sarah Uhlemann (Center for Biological Diversity), (206) 327-2344,  

Protection Sought for Pangolins, World's Most Illegally Trafficked Mammals

Wildlife Coalition Files Petition to List Pangolins Under U.S. Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON— A coalition of wildlife groups petitioned the U.S. government today to designate seven species of pangolins as “endangered” under the country’s Endangered Species Act and also asked for the protection of pangolins under the Act’s “similarity of appearance” provision.

Photo Courtesy Tikki Hywood Trust. Photos are available for media use.

Small and scaly, pangolins are the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal and in danger of extinction. It is estimated that more than 960,000 pangolins were illegally traded over the past decade. While these armored creatures once inhabited vast portions of Asia and Africa, their populations are severely dwindling due to a massive and growing demand for their meat and scales, which are erroneously believed to have curative properties in East Asian medicine.

“Many people have never heard of pangolins, yet, they are one of the most sought after and poached wild animals in the world,” said Jeff Flocken, North American regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “Listing the species as endangered would make a serious statement by the U.S. government and reflect the very real plight of the pangolin. It would also ensure this country plays no role in the further decline of this species.”

Most illegally sourced pangolins are destined for markets in China and Vietnam, but demand for pangolins in the United States remains significant. At least 26,000 imports of pangolin products were seized in the United States between 2004 and 2013.

If protection is granted under the Endangered Species Act, the import and interstate sale of all pangolins and pangolin parts would be prohibited in the United States, unless such activity can be shown to promote the conservation of the species. A listing would also heighten global awareness about the importance of conserving the species. Currently only one of the planet’s eight pangolin species — the Temminck’s ground pangolin of Africa — is protected as endangered under the Act.

Because all species of pangolins so closely resemble each other that law-enforcement officials have difficulty distinguishing them, the groups also filed a “similarity of appearance” petition. If it is granted, trade and import of all pangolin species in the United States would be banned to ensure the currently listed Temminck’s pangolin is not imported due to false identification.   

“These little-known species are critical to their ecosystem, but they could go extinct before most people even hear of them. We encourage the U.S. government to list all pangolin species under the Endangered Species Act expeditiously, taking an appropriate global position of leadership in doing everything possible to save these animals from extinction,” said Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation.

“If we don’t act now, demand for pangolin parts will wipe this extraordinary, odd and beautiful animal off the map,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The United States must do its part to shut down trade in pangolin scales.” 

“Illegal and detrimental international trade in pangolins and their parts is increasing at an alarming rate,” said Dr. Teresa Telecky, director of the Wildlife Department of Humane Society International. “It is essential that the United States provide the highest level of legal protection to these imperiled pangolin species, end consumption of pangolins and their parts in this country, and encourage other countries to follow suit.”

Countries around the world are looking for solutions to address this dire crisis facing pangolins. Representatives from 29 pangolin-range countries in African and Asia recently converged in Da Nang, Vietnam to participate in the First Pangolin Range States Meeting hosted by the governments of Vietnam and the United States. The meeting sought to foster collaborative efforts among pangolin-range states, pangolin-consuming countries and relevant stakeholders. Discussions focused on the latest pangolin population and trade information and examined the increasing illegal international trade. The parties also agreed to a set of recommendations to protect pangolin species against overexploitation as a result of international trade.

The groups filing the petition are Born Free USA, the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International (HSI), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).


Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at;; and

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. For more than 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide – on the Web at

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated most effective by our peers. For 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 100,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read more about our 60 years of transformational change for animals, and visit us online at

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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