China has ordered the highest level of protection for the armadillo-like pangolin as part of its crackdown on the wildlife trade following the global coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported from Beijing on June 5, 2020.

While the virus is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, most scientists say it was most likely transmitted from bats to humans via an intermediary animal such as the pangolin.

The order Friday, June 5, 2020, from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration does not explicitly mention the virus outbreak as a reason for the measure, but the timing appears to indicate that was a consideration.

Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy by some Chinese and its scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine and pangolin smuggling has been rampant, with the animal being smuggled in from the Philippines, Myanmar and Malaysia. Other animals protected at China’s top level include giant pandas, Tibetan antelopes and red-crowned cranes. #COVID19