The Chinese Government has removed the pangolin – an animal linked to the COVID-19 outbreak – from its official list of approved ingredients for use in traditional medicine.
The pangolin is one of the world’s most trafficked animals due to the supposed medical benefits of its scales, and its meat is considered a delicacy.
Research in China has suggested COVID-19 was passed from pangolins to humans at a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, sparking the pandemic.
Now, the pangolin has been dropped from the Chinese Government’s official medicines list.
Chinese state-run media reported that references to pangolin scales have been removed from the latest edition of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, a government compendium of approved medicinal ingredients.
The previous edition, published in 2015, listed pangolin scales as an ingredient that could be used to promote blood circulation, increase lactation reduce swelling, among other things, the South China Morning Post reported.
The efficacy of the scales has never been scientifically proven.
China also upgraded the pangolin to a “first-level protected wild animal” – the highest possible status, which is also held by pandas and tigers.
The Chinese Government’s decision was welcomed by conservation groups.
“These actions of China will have a real impact, these are steps that were critical, that needed to be taken if real conservation was going to happen for these animals,” WWF Hong Kong director of conservation David Olson said.
“Most of the demand for pangolin is coming from traditional Chinese medicine and consumption. That’s what is driving this large scale illegal trade.”
Research in China has suggested COVID-19 spread to humans from pangolins at a wet market in Wuhan, the original epicentre of the virus.
After the pandemic began China banned the trade of wildlife for food but not necessarily for medicinal use.
Globally, there have been more than 7.2 million known coronavirus infections, with a global death toll of 409,617.