Traditional Chinese medicine companies are becoming less reliant on pangolin scales, thanks to a worldwide ban on trade and enforcement at China’s ports.

Wildlife groups are urging the government to ban use of pangolin scales for medicine entirely to help save the reclusive ant-eating mammal.

Through 2015—the last year the government published data on pangolin scale quotas—roughly 57,000 pangolins were killed each year to feed demand for a traditional Chinese medicine.

The scales, comprised mainly of keratin, are roasted and...