Pangolins are threatened by intense poaching activities, and are now the most trafficked animal group in the world. Frequent large international seizures of pangolins and their body parts indicate that international market demand is a primary driver of poaching. China is a major end-market for pangolin products, necessitating study of pangolin use in China to inform management as an important conservation priority. According to the market reduction approach, reducing illegal behaviour (i.e., poaching of pangolins) requires an understanding of the whole trading chain in order to permit identification of potential easy-to-disrupt joints or nodes along this chain (1). Using the framework of the market reduction approach, I present new socio-economic data derived from interviewing trade participants to describe the supply and demand of pangolin products in China. Trade participants are identified as four groups of people: hunters, sellers, consumers, and nature reserve rangers or forestry department officials. Representatives of each of these participant groups were interviewed about their understanding and attitudes towards pangolins and pangolin products. Relevant demographic data were gathered and questions were designed according to the theory of planned behaviour, to characterize pangolin users and to understand the behaviours involved in pangolin trading (2). This approach provides a relatively comprehensive understanding of the whole trading chain and can answer important questions that are necessary to address for pangolin conservation, such as “who are the consumers?” and “why do doctors prescribe pangolin scales?” The results of this study reveal that in China the demand on pangolin products is huge, while enforcement to regulate the market and public awareness on pangolin conservation is limited. Raising public awareness, collaborating with the traditional medicine community, and strengthening law enforcement should be the focuses for pangolin conservation in China. Findings from this project highlight the importance of understanding trading chains in order to identify focal points to conserve species threatened by illegal trade.
1. Schneider JL. Reducing the Illicit Trade in Endangered Wildlife:The Market Reduction Approach. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. 2008;24(3):274-95.
2. Ajzen I. Constructing a theory of planned behavior questionnaire. 2006.