By Xinhua writers Liu Wei and Luan Xiang
BEIJING, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- One of the world' s oldest mammal species is facing the threat of extinction, but just one small word might save it.
Just say "No" to eating, using and purchasing pangolin products, film star Jackie Chan urges people in WildAid' s latest campaign video.
The action hero known appeared all over China since last month, calling for an end to the consuming, hunting and trafficking of the endangered species.
Reflecting on the consumption of shark fin, bear bile or tiger bones based on antiquated superstitions and lamenting the disastrous consequences, the star urged the public to be aware that the toothless, timid animals are in dire need of help and protection.
In the video, he tries to teach the pangolins some martial art moves, only to find that all they know is to curl up in a ball, making themselves vulnerable to poaching.
"The pangolins cannot defend themselves. It is up to us to take action to save them," Chan says.
Jointly produced by WildAid, the Nature Conservancy and China' s Wildlife Protection Association, the video is being broadcast at home and abroad via China Xinhua News Network Corporation(CNC).
Chan hopes more people, especially children, could learn about these helpless animals and join the team to save them. "When I was a young boy, I practiced kung fu and got injured often. I was told then that using medicine made of tiger bones would cure me. Only when I grew up did I realize that it was all a lie," Chan says in the video.
"We should tell our children not to eat, use or buy pangolin products from an early age," he says. "Hopefully, future generations can still have the chance to coexist with pangolins."
The "Wildlife Protection Ambassador" told Xinhua his next movie will focus on fighting wildlife trafficking and he will almost certainly include pangolin protection in the story.
IS IT TOO LATE?
Pangolins represent 70 million years of unique evolution.
These quiet, solitary night creatures feed on ants and termites. Their bodies are covered by an armor of large, keratin scales, which, according to old wives' tales in Asia, can help new mothers produce breast milk or alleviate asthma, and their meat is consumed as a delicacy.
Although research proves pangolin scales are no different to human nails in composition and their meat is unsafe as it comes without quarantine, these animals have been slaughtered to near extinction in Asia and Africa, and their natural habitats have been gravely reduced by deforestation.
One pangolin produces a litter of one to three offspring, which are raised for about two years. With such a low breeding rate - in drastic contrast to the enormous quantities seized in international smuggling - they are now listed as one of the world' s most trafficked mammals by the World Wildlife Fund.
It is estimated that 100,000 pangolins are captured every year in Africa and Asia. As a result, all eight species of pangolin feature on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature' s red list of animals threatened with extinction.
Four Asian species are classified as critically endangered and endangered, while the four African species are also classified as vulnerable.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the number of pangolins in China has fallen by 90 percent over the past 21 years.
It is estimated that China might have significantly fewer pangolins than giant pandas.
In the past decade, over 1 million pangolins were illegally trafficked worldwide, the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group estimates.
In 2016, the 17th CITES Congress adopted a proposal that all eight pangolin species be elevated from Appendix II to Appendix I, banning all international trade of pangolins and their products.
China has placed the pangolins under second degree national protection and first degree national protection might be imminent.
On December 27, 2016, customs officials in Shanghai seized 3.1 tonnes of pangolin scales, equivalent to up to 7,000 dead pangolins. Earlier this year, Hong Kong customs seized 7.2 tonnes of suspected pangolin scale products, suggesting 10,000 animals.
A WIDER AIM
"A pangolin of about 3kg can protect about 250 acres of forest from termite damage," says Zhao Peng, director of the Nature Conservatory' s China Program. "To protect this endangered wildlife species is to protect the natural ecosystem." .
The protection of the wild fauna and flora constitutes a prominent part of China' s development strategy, says Li Qingwen, secretary-general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
Since 2000, the association under the Ministry of Forestry has supported or conducted a series of scientific investigations into the pangolins' status, poaching and trafficking, providing solid foundation for government legislation and law enforcement.
The battle against wildlife poaching and smuggling has made some gratifying results, notes Peter Knights, founder and executive director of WildAid.
Since 1995, WildAid has been working with Jackie Chan to raise awareness of endangered species worldwide. Under the slogan "When the buying stops, the killing can too," it has gained international support.
In the past three years, shark fin consumption has plummeted, with China' s total shark fin imports falling by 81 percent, says Knights.
A total ban on ivory processing and sales in China will be effective from the end of the year, an initiative that has been widely praised by the international community, he says.
With more stringent legislation and law enforcement, the ivory smuggled into China last year fell by 80 percent, while in Kenya and other African countries, ivory prices on the black market fell more than 60 percent, leading to a 75-percent drop in elephant poaching.
Similarly, underground prices for rhinoceros horn are about a third of what they once were.
"This is the result of the joint efforts made by the Chinese government agencies and their partners, and we hope that such joint efforts will have the same effect in protecting the pangolins," he says.
"We are very grateful to China' s General Administration of Customs for its great contribution in combating the illegal trade of pangolins and other wild species."
He calls on all countries to strengthen legislation and to fight pangolin poaching and consumption with stronger law enforcement at international level.