The Pangolin is the most trafficked mammal in the world. This shy creature is the size of a house cat and is the only mammal known to have protective keratin scales covering its skin. What is keratin? It’s the same material that human fingernails and hair are made of!
If touched or grabbed, the pangolin will roll up completely into a ball and use its protruding sharp scales in self-defense.
Pangolins are primarily nocturnal, and their diet consists of mainly ants and termites, which they capture using their long tongues. They also let out a sticky chemical just like skunks do when feeling threatened.
Today, eight species of pangolins can be found between Asia and Africa. They live in hollow trees or burrows in forests and grasslands depending on the species.
The 8 species range from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered. The Chinese and Sunda species are now listed as Critically Endangered, due to human poaching activities.
Why are they poached? Millions of pangolins are being poached and traded for their meat, scales and blood. The largest consumer market for these products is Vietnam and China.
Their meat is a delicacy in China – apparently pangolin stew!
There is a mythical belief that the scales and blood have magical medicinal properties. In countries like Vietnam and China, where traditional medicine is very popular, hospitals and pharmacies prescribe powder from pangolin scales and blood to cure and heal sick people.
In addition, China exports a lot of traditional medicine to the growing demand in the West. This has caused a load of illegal hunting. For example, African traders are illegally supplying African pangolins to Asian markets to make a quick buck!
The pangolin could go extinct before most people realize it exists. China has already banned ivory trade to save the African Elephant lets hope it does something for pangolin conservation.
Adapted by: Biyash Choksey