Singapore, June 30, 2008Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia jointly organised a three-day pangolin conservation workshop to be held at the Singapore Zoo, starting today, to discuss the perilous situation facing pangolin populations in Asia, as its survival comes under increasing threat.

Pangolins are poached for their meat, consumed as food and used in traditional medicines across the region. Its numbers in the wild are dwindling rapidly in Asia with regular seizures by the authorities in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. A majority of the shipments resulting from illegal poaching are destined for China.

“WRS is extremely fortunate to have been instrumental in bringing together key-decision makers and conservationists from 14 countries and territories around the region, to discuss and make recommendations that will hopefully secure and protect the future of pangolins in the wild. Through our collaboration with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, we are able to approach the issue of illegal pangolin trade, from a more comprehensive conservation perspective, that includes both enforcement and legislative angles. Our main hope is to catalyse the region into seriously conserving one of the most unique species of biodiversity which we call our own, and to ensure that this cascades into actionable initiatives in the pangolin’s range countries.” said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO, Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are the most numerous mammal species found in confiscated illegal wildlife cargoes throughout Southeast Asia. In 2000, a complete ban on international trade of pangolins was adopted by Parties to CITES.

The three-day workshop will discuss issues and challenges of pangolin trade enforcement in Asia, conservation, its ecology and biology as well as husbandry and management in zoological institutions.

Workshop participants reflect the diversity of the problems and threats facing pangolins, and represent government as well as non-governmental agencies responsible for wildlife trade management coming from as far as China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Brunei, Laos and Singapore. During the workshop, participants will also develop an action plan to help relevant enforcement agencies focus their efforts to halt the illegal pangolin trade.

Participants’ recommendations will be sent to the CITES Secretariat, the International Criminal Police Organisation (ICPO)-Interpol, the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and national focal points of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), to ensure a coherent approach to information and intelligence sharing on pangolin trade in the region.

“This meeting is vital to the future survival of pangolins. It is now or never for pangolins. The poaching simply has to stop,” said Ms Azrina Abdullah, Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

In February and March 2008 alone, a staggering 23 tonnes of pangolin carcasses and scales, the remains of approximately 8,000 animals—were seized in Hai Phong, Vietnam, in a single week.

The commonest species currently in trade is believed to be the Malayan pangolin (Manis javanica), found in Malaysia and Indonesia; populations elsewhere in Asia have been decimated. Recent pangolin seizures have even involved African species.

In China, tough penalties can be imposed on pangolin smugglers, with two men receiving suspended death sentences in November 2007 and fined a total of RMB3 million (USD400,000) whilst their accomplices received jail sentences ranging between 10 years and life.