The pangolin trade explained: Situation in Nepal

By Kunda Dixit, Sonia Awale, on May 2, 2019

What is Nepal’s role in the illicit trade?

Nepal, which borders China, serves as both a supply site and transit point for illegal  pangolin trade — both of live animals and body parts.  Pangolins are also consumed domestically, hunted by some indigenous groups, which consider them a delicacy. Body parts seized recently in Nepal prove that the country is a conduit even for African pangolins.    

How big is the estimated pangolin population? How many have been seized in recent years?

Nepal is home to two species of pangolins: the Chinese pangolin and the Indian pangolin. The animals are found in 44 of the country’s 77 districts. However there are no estimates of the total pangolin population. In the past five years, Nepal Police have arrested 56 smugglers and confiscated 223.5 kilograms of scales, four live pangolins, one pangolin carcass and seven sets of pangolin skin. 

What is the major use of pangolins?

There is no known domestic pangolin market within the country. Some ethnic groups in Nepal are known to eat pangolin meat for their supposed health benefits, and many farmers, believing the animal to be inauspicious, kill them if they are seen. However, most trapped pangolins are smuggled to China.

Are there laws that ban farming, poaching or selling pangolins? What are the penalties?

Both Chinese and Indian pangolins are listed as protected species in Nepal. Killing, poaching, transporting, selling or buying them is punishable with a fine of 1 million Nepalese rupees (US$ 9,000) and/or up to 15 years in jail. 

On World Pangolin Day, on 16 February, this year, the government released Pangolin Monitoring Guideline for Nepal, touted as the world’s first guide that provides instructions on how to monitor pangolins’ activities in the wild so action can be taken to protect them. 

Have there been any actual prosecutions?  Have there been any court cases?

Police records do not show any prosecutions, but most are released on bail. Pangolin smugglers have been apprehended in the past, but not solely for smuggling this particular animal as they also smuggle tiger, rhino and other endangered species to China.

Who are the people involved the in the trade of pangolins? Who they sell the pangolins to and for how much?

Nepal is known to have well-operating smuggling racket for pangolins trafficked from India and Africa to China. 

How can you help?

Small Mammal Conservation and Research Foundation, part of Nepal’s National Nature Conservation Trust, which is based in Kathmandu, and WWF Nepal are among a number of organisations working actively with wildlife police and conservationists against poaching, smuggling and killing of the endangered species.

Small Mammal Conservation and Research Foundation
Phone: +977 9803607763



WWF Nepal


Photo: Tulshi Laxmi Suwal/SMCRF

Photo: Tulshi Laxmi Suwal/SMCRF

Photo: Tulshi Laxmi Suwal/SMCRF

Photo: Tejab Pun/SMCRF


Sonia Awale

Sonia is a digital producer and environment correspondent for the Nepali Times. Her reportage has covered air polluti…

Kunda Dixit

Kunda Dixit

A former reporter for the BBC, Kunda is the founder and editor of Nepali Times and former chairman of the Centre for…