The latest version of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia for 2020 does not include pangolins, which means the mammals will no longer be used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

The move came after China upgraded all species of pangolin from second-class to first-class protected animals on Friday considering their rapidly decreasing numbers due to over-hunting and habitat destruction.

According to the latest version of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, “depleted wild species will be withdrawn from the pharmacopoeia.”

Pangolins are believed to be one of the world’s most endangered animals and the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal, according to TRAFFIC, an international wildlife trade research organization.

“Removing the animal from the pharmacopoeia would effectively reduce consumption demand for pangolins and curb illegal hunting and trading,” Sun Quanhui, a scientist from World Animal Protection, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Sun lauded the move, saying it complies with the calls for enhanced protection of pangolins.

In the late 1990s, the number of native pangolins in China was about 60,000, widely distributed in 11 provinces and regions, said a report from China’s first national survey of land wildlife resources.

But the number has declined by about 90 percent, estimated by the Species Survival Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

China started banning pangolin hunting in the wild in 2007 and stopped commercial imports of pangolins and pangolin products in 2018.

But the animal’s unique value as a TCM medicine and lax punishment for eating them have led to the continued hunting of Pagolions.

In TCM, pangolin scales are believed to be able to promote blood circulation and remove stasis as well as diminish inflammation. But the use of pangolin scales has become one of the main threats to their species, Sun noted.

Wang Chengde, an expert from the China Association of Chinese Medicine, told media that scorpion, chilopod and pig nails can be used as substitutes for pangolin scales in TCM therapy.

Pangolins are not the first animals whose medicinal standards have been outlawed. Rhinoceros horns and tiger bones are also banned from being used in TCMs after China banned the trade of these goods and related products in 1993.