In the past, scales from pangolins, the world’s most trafficked wild mammal, were used in Vietnam for medical treatment, but there is no evidence to support it, Dr Nguyen Thi Bay, former head of HCM City University of Medicine and Pharmacy’s Traditional Medicine Faculty, said at a recent workshop on the medical value of pangolin scales held in Ho Chi Minh City.
Students of traditional medicine at Vietnamese universities are now taught that pangolin scales are ineffective and that bo cong anh (scientific name of Lactuca indica), and Indian camphorweed should be used instead.
Dr Le Hung, Chairman of HCM City Traditional Medicine and Acupuncture Hospital, said that advertisements often falsely claimed that pangolin scales can treat cancer and diabetes in addition to improving male energy and vitality.
In the past decade, one million pangolins were hunted and sold worldwide, leading to a decline in pangolin population, according to the workshop’s organisers - the Centre of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), in co-operation with WildAid, a US environmental organisation.
Vietnam and China lead the global demand for pangolins, they reported.
In the world, eight species of pangolin are on the edge of extinction. The Asian pangolin population plummeted by 80 percent in just 21 years. Vietnam’s two species, the Chinese and Sunda pangolin, are critically endangered.
Last July, Vietnam raised the penalty for illegal hunting and trading in pangolin to 15 years in prison. Government agencies in recent years have strengthened their inspections and seized trafficked pangolins. In the past 10 years, the country’s authorities seized 54.8 tonnes of pangolins and 14.7 tonnes of scales.