An investigation will begin in China after online images were found showing local officials enjoying a banquet of meat from pangolins – the most trafficked animal in the world.
Pangolin meat is regarded as a delicacy in China, and extravagant feasts are common to show great hospitality.
The alleged feast took place in the southern province of Guangxi, and became a hot news topic after photos emerged online from a businessman who was present at the pangolin banquet and quickly went viral. A comment was posted alongside the uploaded image, which displayed images of cooked meat and bones, which said, “This is the first time I have eaten it (pangolin), and it tasted great. I have fell deeply in love with the taste of wildlife.”
Despite the documented banquet (the post has since been deleted), the trade in pangolins was banned in Beijing over ten years ago, following fears that the animal was being hunted to extinction. Alongside this, pangolin smugglers in China receive prison sentences of up to ten years.
Even with these heavy implications, the “scaly anteaters” still remain to be the most illegally traded animal in the world, due to huge demand for the nocturnal creatures. Pangolins are coveted for their sharp scales, which the Chinese use for their traditional medicine as an ingredient that they believe improves blood circulation.
The huge demand, together with the trading ban, have meant that the scales can sell for up to £2,000 on the black market, whilst a pangolin meal at a Chinese restaurant would cost hundreds of pounds. Animal protection campaigners believe that up to 90,000 pangolins have been seized by custom officials over the last ten years in China and Hong Kong. However, the figures of smuggled pangolins that have entered the country undetected are expected to be a lot higher than this.
The result of such a huge Asian market for pangolins has led to devastating impacts on their populations across Africa and Asia. Keith Guo, the regional spokesman for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), claimed, “In China, some people still believe the meat of wildlife can improve health, and this has no scientific basis.”
One comment on China’s version of Twitter, called Sina Weibo, said, “So officials entertain themselves by eating endangered wildlife. No wonder I am concerned about the future of the country.”