Myanmar: Pangolins are trafficked in plain sight

How a Chinese and a Burmese reporter collaborated to document wildlife crimes

Criminal syndicates in Africa and Asia are working together — and competing — to meet the seemingly insatiable demand for pangolins in China and other markets.

Over the past twelve months, more than 40 journalists in 15 countries and territories have conducted a joint investigation on how illegal pangolin trafficking is leading the species to become extinct.

Today we’re sharing an update from Myanmar: an investigation into the pangolin trade and the consumption of the endangered mammal in the country.

Our Chinese reporter, Xu Jiaming, teamed up with Tin Htet Paing, a senior reporter at Myanmar Now, to visit markets, restaurants and shops in major trade hubs across the country, feigning interest in buying pangolins.

They found consumption and trade of the nearly extinct animal to be more pervasive and more brazen than we had expected — despite laws supposedly protecting pangolins.

The picture below shows a live pangolin that was offered to them for sale at a Chinese restaurant in Yangon:

As part of “The Pangolin Reports,” journalists have inquired about pangolin meat in more than 14 countries. In most places, suppliers are careful and suspicious. It took days, weeks, and sometimes months to get to buy an animal. They all know that their trade is illegal.  

But episodes like at this restaurant suggest that the country is unlike any other transit hub in Southeast Asia. Consumption is more open than anywhere else. Just take a look at what Tin and Jiaming recorded on video:

Please read their report in English at Myanmar Now:

English-language version

The report also appeared in Chinese at Initium Media:

Chinese-language version

We will share new findings with you in early 2020. If you know anyone who might be interested in our work, please invite them to subscribe to this newsletter.

One more thing: Test your knowledge of pangolins and the illegal wildlife trafficking trade in this fantastic quiz by our colleagues at R.AGE in Malaysia. (For best results, check our their fully-illustrated investigative storybook.)

Take the quiz

Here are our earlier newsletters: 

IntroductionQ&AChinaCameroonNigeriaMalaysiaThai-Malaysian borderIndonesiaPhilippinesIndiaNepalHong KongVietnamTaiwanChina againour IJNet profile, the investigative storybook in Malaysia, and our two-part report from Palawan.