The pangolin is a critically endangered animal that most people have never heard about. Ironically, it is also the most illegally trafficked animal in the world. According to the WWF website:
“Between 2011 and 2013, an estimated 116,990 – 233,980 pangolins were killed, which represents only the tip of the (illegal trafficking) trade. Experts believe that seizures represent as little as 10 percent of the actual volume in pangolins in illegal wildlife trade.”
The pangolin is a nocturnal and solitary animal that lives in forest and grassland ecosystems. There are eight known species of which four live in Africa and four live in Asia. It is an insectivore that feeds heavily on ants and termites and because of their poor vision, they have a heightened sense of smell and hearing.
All pangolin species are protected by national and international laws and are considered threatened or endangered. Unfortunately, two of the species are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The reason this scaly looking creature, which looks like a reptile but is actually similar to an anteater with armor, is heavily sought after is because its meat is used as a delicacy and scales used in folk-lore style medicines to treat afflictions like asthma and arthritis.
But despite the grim outlook for the pangolin’s future, it looks like there may be hope as conservationists and government agencies are finally starting to notice the pangolin’s plight. On March 3, 2015, the Humane Society International released a post card promotion via email so that people could share on social media sites in order to help raise awareness to the fact that in just one decade, one million pangolins were poached.
More recently, on June 24th through June 26th, the first Pangolin Range States Meeting was held in Da Nang, Viet Nam. There were over a hundred participants from Africa and Asia in attendance. On the agenda were discussions on the threats to the pangolin species and strategies to help save them. It was also discussed that the “two most endangered pangolin species, Chinese or Formosan pangolin and Malayan or Sunda pangolin, may become extinct in 10 years if current trends continue”.
At this time, it would seem that the most important step in protecting the pangolin is awareness and education. Because in order to help stop the illegal trafficking of this critically endangered animal, advocates, conservation groups and government agencies must start working with locals to come up with ways for them and the pangolin to coexist.