There are eight species of pangolin worldwide. These different species can be found throughout Africa and Asia. The pangolin is a unique animal which has evolved an armoured cover of keratin scales as a defensive mechanism against predators. This is the only example of this defence in a mammalian species.

Vietnam is home to two species of pangolin, the Sunda pangolin (Manid javanica) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla). Both species overlap in their range and habitats with some research suggesting the Sunda pangolin exists at lower altitudes to the Chinese pangolin. In Vietnam, however there is a distinct divide with Sunda pangolin inhabiting the south of Vietnam and the Chinese pangolin the north. Both species are generally found in forested areas and are secretive in nature making it difficult to study population trends.

Both species are considered critically endangered by the IUCN due to the substantial amount of illegal trade in pangolin products over the last two decades. Although population figures are difficult to quantify it is believed that these species have had a decline of 80-90% in the last three generations.


The largest threat to Pangolin survival is the illegal hunting and trade of pangolin and pangolin products. In 2016 the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to add the pangolin to CITES appendix 1 meaning that it is illegal to trade this species without proper permissions.

Pangolins are primarily hunted for their use in the bushmeat trade and for traditional medicine purposes. Traditional medicine providers prescribe the use of pangolin scales to treat issues such as skin conditions, low blood pressure, failure to stimulate milk secretion in lactating women and cancer. Pangolin meat is generally consumed as a sign of affluence with the price per kilogram extremely high.

Pangolins are hunted in Vietnam for the domestic and international trade of pangolin products, however Vietnam is also a transit route for pangolins imported from throughout Asia and Africa to be re-exported to countries such as China.

What are we doing?

WCS Vietnam work at a high level with the Vietnamese authorities to build capacity and shape policy which enables effective oversight of illegal wildlife trade activities.

To develop an understanding of issues associated with the illegal trading of pangolins, WCS organised a workshop and field visit for 45 Vietnam National Assembly members in 2017. The pangolin was discussed amongst other things and the trip involved a visit to a pangolin conservation centre.

We build intelligence on crime syndicates, locations of illegal wildlife sale/production, smuggling routes which can help local law enforcement agencies with their investigations and arrests.


Challender, D., Nguyen Van, T., Shepherd, C., Krishnasamy, K., Wang, A., Lee, B., Panjang, E., Fletcher, L., Heng, S., Seah Han Ming, J., Olsson, A., Nguyen The Truong, A., Nguyen Van, Q. & Chung, Y. 2014. Manis javanica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Downloaded on 07 July 2017. 

Challender, D., Baillie, J., Ades, G., Kaspal, P., Chan, B., Khatiwada, A., Xu, L., Chin, S., KC, R., Nash, H. & Hsieh, H. 2014. Manis pentadactyla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Downloaded on 07 July 2017.

Newton, P., Nguyen, T., Roberton, S., & Bell, D. (2008). Pangolins in peril: using local hunters’ knowledge to conserve elusive species in Vietnam. Endangered Species Research, 6, 41-53. doi:10.3354/esr006041

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