The prevailing tomb-raiding themed drama craze is driving Chinese customers to purchase pangolin-made amulets to exorcise "evil spirits," sparking an urgency to save the wild animal.
According to a recent documentary, Searching for the Last Pangolin, published on World Pangolin Day on February 16, pangolin products were found to be the new favorites for tomb-raiding themed drama followers.
Pangolin claws are crafted into an ornament called "mojinfu." Some believe wearing mojinfu can exorcise evil spirits as depicted in the fantasy novel Guichuideng, also known as Ghost Blows Out the Light, depicts.
Although it is illegal, such ornaments are widely seen in China's antique markets, with some made into amulets or combs. Prices of the trinkets can reach up to 2,000 yuan ($298) each, a researcher from NGO Traffic was quoted as saying by the documentary.
Tomb-raiding themed dramas have become prevalent in China since the release of the novels Ghost Blows Out the Light and Daomu Biji, known as The Lost Tomb in 2006. Various online dramas and movies sprung up online starting from 2015 and mojinfu can frequently be seen in such drama series, Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
On e-commerce platform Taobao, the Global Times found many mojinfu online are made of wolf or dog tooth. The price ranges from 10 yuan to 100 yuan each.
Pangolin experts reached by the Global Times said the consumption of pangolin as an amulet to exorcise evil spirits represent only a small portion of the domestic market, with most pangolin products being used as traditional Chinese medicine.
China has placed the pangolin under second degree national protection and first degree national protection might be imminent. According to China's Criminal Law, suspects who illegally hunt or transport and sale endangered wildlife could face more than 10 years in prison.
China has strengthened protection of the pangolin in recent years and a series of campaigns against pangolin trafficking have been launched by Chinese customs and public security departments. A total of 209 pangolin smuggling cases were busted from 2007 to 2016, the Xinhua News Agency reported.