Mysterious, mostly active under the cover of darkness, away from prying eyes and one would think save from danger. Why then is the pangolin so endangered and utterly vulnerable?
The pangolin, sometimes also refers to as a scaly ant eater, ranks as the most trafficked mammal in the world, even above the rhino and the African elephant. More than one million of these animals have been poached over the last decade, mainly in Asia and Africa. Big pangolin farms now exist in Asia while large shipments from African countries bound for China and Vietnam are regularly seized.
Due to these threats, all eight species are listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as either Endangered (extremely high risk of extinction), Endangered (very high risk of extinction), or Vulnerable (high risk of extinction). All eight species are also listed under Appendix I—the highest level of protection—of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans all commercial trade in the species.
On 17 February it is #WorldPangolinDay, an opportunity to raise awareness about these unique mammals and their plight. They may be small in stature but needs protection just as much as other much bigger four legged creatures.
Interesting pangolin facts:
- When it’s threatened, a pangolin will curl itself into a tight ball, which is impenetrable to predators, but makes them easy prey for poachers.
- Pangolins are the only mammals that are covered in scales, which are made of keratin — just like our hair and finger nails.
- In Asia, pangolin scales, blood and foetuses are used to purportedly treat conditions like liver problems, skin issues and swelling. Secondary threats to pangolins include habitat loss and the bush meat trade.
- Pangolins can consume up to 20 000 ants and termites a day (over 70 million a year) using their long, sticky tongues which are often longer than their body when fully extended.
- Pangolins have large, curved claws that are used for excavating ant and termite nests, as well as for pulling bark of trees and logs to find their insect prey.
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