Smugglers 'racing to beat proposed law banning anteater trade'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 12:00am

Conservationists fear poachers are pushing more shipments of Asian anteaters through Hong Kong in an attempt to beat a move to make trading in the endangered creatures illegal next month.

Robert Parry-Jones, programme officer for Traffic East Asia said: 'The traders may be frightened pangolins [anteaters] may be listed so they are trying to stockpile before the proposal is passed.' Asian pangolin populations are under pressure from hunters and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) has proposed banning any sort of trade in their scales.

Despite trading in pangolins with a permit being within the law, illegal smuggling continues. Cites estimates 400 pangolins are still smuggled illegally from Vietnam to China every week.

In traditional Chinese medicine, pangolin scales are used as antiseptics and as a catalyst to improve the effectiveness of other medicines.

In India, pangolins are used to cure piles, scabies and rheumatic pain. They are also used as charms to bring good luck.

China remains the largest market for pangolin parts.

The latest illegal shipments were reported to be en route from the Philippines and Indonesia on their way to Shenzhen.

Customs officers also seized 403kg of sea turtle skin. Sea turtles are on the Cites' endangered species list and illegal to trade in any form. Their skins are used in leather products and the meat is a luxury food.

Mr Parry said it had been hard for international regulators to assess the impact of illegal smuggling on Asian populations of sea turtles and anteaters because many of the countries do not track the animal populations.