The first environmental public interest litigation on pangolins was approved on January 11, 2019. The plaintiff, the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), claims that due to dereliction of duty the seized pangolins received by the Guangxi Terrestrial Wildlife Rescue and Epidemic Disease Detection Center all perished two months after arriving at the center in August 2017. The department directly above the center, the Forestry Department of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is listed as the third party in the lawsuit, filed at the Nanning Intermediate People’s Court of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on September 14 last year.
The rescue center received 34 pangolins after the seizure of a suspected illegal transport by the Marine Police of Guangxi. Knowing that most bureaus lack the experience to handle wild animals, staff from CBCGDF immediately responded when seeing the news report, gathering a team of experts and traveling to Guangxi to offer assistance. However, their offer was rejected and the pangolins all died. The CBCGDF repeatedly asked the Forestry Department of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to disclose information and explain the death of these pangolins but only found unclear answers or lies, said Sophia from the CBCGDF.
Although there is much awareness of pangolins going extinct, proper measures have not been put in place. Since pangolins are still seen as a delicacy and an ingredient in traditional medicine, the demand for their meat and scales continues driving the supply. It is legal to farm and raise pangolins in China, however there has been a lot of evidence indicating that these “farms” smuggle more than they rear, if they rear at all. It is extremely difficult to raise pangolins due to their unique eating habits, living standards, and long pregnancy cycles. The rescue center at the centre of the litigation is therefore considered suspicious, as it has been sending pangolins to these farms in the name of breeding.
The CBCGDF has been doing a number of things hoping to improve the condition of pangolins, including involving volunteers nationwide in investigating the issue, providing incentives for releasing pangolins, and developing a tracking device for better tracking the pangolins after they are released.