Shy pangolins need world spotlight to survive


Share post:

Reclusive, gentle and quick to roll up into a ball, pangolins keep a low profile. But they are also the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal, and experts at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference this week are ringing alarm bells over their survival.

Shy pangolins need world spotlight to survive
Zimbabwe game reserve guide Matius Mhambe holds “Marimba”, a female pangolin that has been nine years 
in care at Wild Is Life animal sanctuary just outside Harare [Credit: AFP/Jekesai Njikizana]

Demand for pangolin meat and body parts has fuelled a bloodbath, and driven the scale-covered, ant-eating mammal towards extinction.

More than a million pangolins are believed to have been poached from the wild in the past decade. Most are used to supply demand in China and Vietnam, where they are highly regarded as a delicacy and an ingredient in traditional medicine.

At the CITES meeting in Johannesburg, conservationists will discuss moving pangolins into the highest protection category, which bans all international trade.

“The pangolin today is regarded as the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world,” CITES chief John Scanlon told AFP. “There has been a massive surge in the illegal take of the pangolin for its meat and for its scales.”

Currently CITES allows for trade in pangolins but under strict conditions.

“Existing laws are clearly failing to protect pangolins from the poachers. A complete international trade ban is needed now,” said Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s wildlife advisor.

There are four species of pangolin in Africa and four in Asia. Watchdogs say those in Asia are being eaten to extinction, while populations in Africa are declining fast.

Shy pangolins need world spotlight to survive
Indonesian police display some of 657 dead and frozen pangolins seized in Surabaya, East Java 
[Credit: AFP/Juni Kriswanto]

Research published in the early 2000s estimated populations in China to have declined by up to 94 percent, said Dan Challender, pangolin expert at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Pangolins are covered in overlapping scales, and have pink, sticky tongues almost as long as their bodies. When physically threatened, they curl into ball, making it easy for them to be picked up by hunters and put into a sack. About the size of a small dog, they are solitary, mostly nocturnal and cannot be farmed.

“Pangolins are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity—they only feed on wild ants and termites, and they are extremely prone to stress and dehydration, so they die,” Ray Jansen, of the African Pangolin Working Group, told AFP.

In Chinese traditional medicine, pangolin scales are ground into a powder believed to cure conditions from headaches and menstrual cramps to nose bleeding and lack of virility. The scales are sometimes even used as guitar plectrums.

In traditional African culture, some people believe in keeping a scale in their pockets to ward off evil. Zimbabweans used to present the mammals to President Robert Mugabe during his early years in office, but the practice has been discontinued.

“In Shona and Zulu culture, a pangolin is regarded as the greatest gift you can bestow on a chief, statesman or an elder,” said Jansen.

Shy pangolins need world spotlight to survive
A rescued pangolin rests in a cage as another hangs outside at the customs department in Bangkok 
[Credit: AFP/Christophe Archambault]

Pangolin fat, blood and bones are also highly valued in African traditional medicine.

According to Jansen, in South Africa a pangolin can sell for anything between 10,000 rand ($730) to 80,000 rand ($5,800) depending on the client.

India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nigeria, Senegal and the United States are co-sponsoring the proposal to impose a total ban on pangolin trade.

The CITES treaty, signed by 182 countries and the European Union, protects about 5,600 animal and 30,000 plant species from over-exploitation through commercial trade.

The 12-day conference started Saturday and will sift through 62 proposals to tighten or loosen trade restrictions on some 500 species.

Author: Susan Njanji | Source: AFP [September 25, 2016]


  1. Shiking images, cant read this images are disturbing. Trauma, what about sensitive teens reading animal news, causes counteraction, what you cant control only give fines and jail them. My Counter Reaction not to animals but scientist publish these, writing about it, description is enough, we have imagination to see it inside mind, i now how plasticbag look and i now what is gage where is no floor, so why you have to give images about it, you underestimate readers imagination ability.



Related articles

Local weather impacts melting of one of Antarctica’s fastest-retreating glaciers

Local weather plays an important part in the retreat of the ice shelves in West Antarctica, according to...

Establishing a timescale for more than 10 million years ago

The timescale is the base to reconstruct the history of the Earth and the biological evolution. A research...

Making biominerals: nature’s recipe is old, evolved more than once

In recent years, scientists have teased out many of the secrets of biomineralization, the process by which sea...

Researchers unravel mysteries of Earth’s inner core

Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) are unlocking some of the secrets of the Earth's inner core...

Researchers examine the age of groundwater in Egyptian aquifers

Most of the water used by people in Egypt comes from the Nile River, which originates from precipitation...

Historic low levels of Arctic sea ice signal trouble for Arctic wildlife

Following a record-breaking warm Arctic winter, Arctic Ocean sea ice looks set to hit a record low maximum...

Lost or extinct? Study finds the existence of more than 500 animal species remains uncertain

An international study provides the first global evaluation of all terrestrial vertebrate species that have not been declared...

2017 likely to be third warmest year on record

The latest estimate for 2017 suggests the year will be the second or third warmest in a record...