Action superstar Jackie Chan has joined the fight against poaching of the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin (or scale anteater).
In the video “Kung Fu Pangolin,” released by conservation groups WildAid and The Nature Conservancy, Jackie Chan tells the story of how a pangolin was killed by poachers. He teaches kung fu to protect himself and urges people not to buy pangolin meat or scales. And he is appealing, “If you stop buying, there will be no capture.”
Thousands of pangolins are illegally hunted each year for their meat and scales. In fact, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than one million pangolins have been bought and sold in the last decade, mostly catering to demand in China and Vietnam.
Pangolin scales are made of keratin (similar to human fingernails and rhino horn) and are popular in traditional Chinese medicine. Traders claim the scales can treat asthma, arthritis, rheumatism, and even stimulate menstruation and milk production, but these claims have never been proven. Pangolin meat is also considered a delicacy in Vietnam and China.
“It is insane that we are still endangering wild animals like pangolins by eating them,” Jackie Chan said in a statement. “We hope that [our actions] will convince people that it’s the wrong thing to do,” he said.
Ongoing illegal wildlife trade threatens the survival of eight extant pangolin species, four in Africa and four in Asia.
Pangolins that inhabit Asia include the Chinese pangolin (Long-eared pangolin), the Sunda pangolin (Malayan pangolin), the Indian pangolin, and the Philippine pangolin (Manis clionenis). list) as either Critically Endangered or Critically Endangered. The four species inhabiting Africa are the savanna pangolin, the white-bellied or tree pangolin, the giant pangolin, and the long-tailed pangolin, all of which are listed as Vulnerable.
Last year, international law recognized that all eight pangolin species deserve the highest level of protection. It is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibits global commercial trade.
However, the market value of pangolins in China and Vietnam remains high, and poachers continue to hunt them in large numbers.
For example, more than eight tons of pangolin scales were found in jute bags by Malaysian customs authorities last month. The scales are estimated to have come from at least 16,000 pangolins. In May, customs officials in Hong Kong found more than seven tons of pangolin scales in a shipping container arriving from Africa.
On Wednesday, August 30, Thai customs officials seized 136 pangolins and 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of scales that had been captured alive. These were exported from Malaysia and were probably smuggled to China and Vietnam.
The “Kung Fu Pangolin” video and accompanying billboards will be widely distributed in China and Vietnam, WildAid said.
“The priority for pangolin conservation is to reduce consumer demand and improve enforcement,” WildAid CEO Peter Knights said in a statement. “With [videos featuring Jackie Chan] being watched by huge audiences across Asia, it is clear that these campaigns will have a huge impact on people and change their mindsets [for example] in China. Shark fin imports to China have fallen by 81% in three years, while ivory seized last year fell by 80% and prices for ivory and rhino horn fell by more than 50%.”