China has removed pangolin scales from an official 2020 list of traditional medicines as part of efforts to protect the world's most-trafficked mammal.
Following its upgrading of the protection level of the pangolin last week, China took another step toward saving the pangolin, or its original Malay name "pengguling," from extinction Tuesday by removing parts of the animal from its medicine list.
"The latest version of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia for 2020 does not include pangolins, which means the mammals will no longer be used as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)," the Global Times daily said. Other substances including pills containing bat feces were also excluded from the list.
Recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an official pharmacopeia, the Chinese Pharmacopoeia is an official compendium of drugs, which covers both traditional Chinese and modern medicines and includes information on the standards of purity, description, test, dosage and precaution.
Chinese authorities said this move came to strengthen efforts to protect and rescue the scaly anteater population as they are facing deadly threats like poaching, although all eight species of pangolins are banned from international trade. China has in recent months banned the sale of wild animals for food, citing the risk of diseases spreading to humans, but the trade remains legal for other purposes – including research and traditional medicine.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, along with their illegal hunting, using pangolin scales for traditional medicines, especially in China and Vietnam, is a great threat to the species.
The Chinese believe pangolin scales are a cure for a variety of diseases such as heart disease and even cancer and are widely used to help lactating women produce milk. However, their therapeutic value isn't scientifically proven.
Every third Saturday in February is observed annually as World Pangolin Day to raise awareness about these unique mammals.
Although bats were mostly seen as transmitters of the coronavirus, the latest studies have pointed to pangolins as potential intermediate hosts of the virus. South China Agricultural University announced in February that they had discovered a 99% genetic match between the novel coronavirus and a virus taken from pangolins.
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