For Philippine pangolins, tourism’s return could spell trouble

  • Since lifting tourism restrictions at the beginning of the year, the Philippines has received more than 2 million international arrivals. Palawan, home of the Philippine pangolin, has already received more than 500,000 visitors this year.
  • The Philippine pangolin is critically endangered, hunted to the brink of extinction for its scales and meat; China, the Philippines’ neighbor and a major tourism market, drives global demand for these products.
  • A recent report on trafficking dynamics of the Philippine pangolin says the development of local pangolin trafficking networks since 2016 is tied in part to policies that encouraged Chinese tourism and direct investment.
  • Experts warn the post-COVID-19 resurgence of tourism will also lead to a spike in pangolin trafficking.

As the Philippines travel and tourism industry bounces back from the coronavirus pandemic, wildlife trade analysts are anticipating a resurgence in the poaching of the country’s endemic pangolin.

The enigmatic Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) has been hunted to the edge of extinction to feed untamed global demand for its scales, used in the production of traditional Chinese medicine, and its meat, which is served as a luxury food in some restaurants.

In November, the Philippine tourism department announced that the country has welcomed more than 2 million visitors since the government relaxed border restrictions earlier this year. In the beach haven of Palawan province, home to the Philippine pangolin, more than half a million international and domestic tourists have already arrived in 2022.

The government is also predicting a resurgence of visitors from China, the world’s largest consumer of pangolin parts. Prior to the pandemic, Chinese nationals were the second-largest and fastest-growing segment of the Philippines’ tourism market.

This raises concerns among conservationists, including Emerson Sy, an independent Filipino wildlife trafficking researcher who worked with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) on a recent study that described the trafficking dynamics of the Philippine pangolin.


BANNER IMAGE: The Philippine pangolin is critically endangered, hunted to the brink of extinction for its scales and meat. Image by Gregg Yan via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

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