There are eight pangolin species in the world, four species can be found in Asia and the other four in Africa. The pangolin is a unique animal which has evolved an armoured cover of keratin scales as a defense mechanism against predators. This is the only example of this defence in a mammalian species.

Viet Nam is home to two species of pangolin, the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla). The Sunda pangolin inhabits in the South of Viet Nam while the Chinese pangolin inhabits in 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 International Union for Conservation of Nature (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 decades.


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, providing the highest protection to this species, and also 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. In traditional medicine, pangolin scales are used to be considered as being able to treat skin conditions, low blood pressure, or 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 Viet Nam for the domestic and international trade of pangolin products; however, Viet Nam 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 Viet Nam works with the Vietnamese government agencies to build capacity and inform policy which enables effective oversight of wildlife trade activities. We conduct research on crime syndicates, locations of illegal wildlife sale/production, smuggling routes which can help local law enforcement agencies with their investigations and arrests.

At the same time, we also conduct research and supervision of epidemics in wildlife and the possibility of disease transmission between people and wildlife.

We work closely with law enforcement agencies at national and local level including police and ranger and provide them technical assistance such as intelligence, species identification, legal advice to target high-level criminal networks.



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