The pangolin is the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal. International demand is increasing exponentially for their meat and scales, and they are constantly under threat of poaching. There are eight species of pangolin: four in Asia and four in Africa, and sadly they are all threatened by extinction.
At the Tikki Hywood Trust, elusive and lesser known animals, like the pangolin, can find refuge. As part of an awareness campaign, the caretakers and pangolins of this wildlife rescue and conservation group were followed and photographed. Each caretaker is paired with their own pangolin. They are walked, fed, and most importantly kept safe — living a day of life as they should. Here you can see an inspiring relationship between the two:
Despite strict laws imposing fines and imprisonment, as well as a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) ban on all internationally commercially traded pangolin parts, the market for pangolins shows no signs of slowing down. In June of 2016 a four-ton shipment of pangolin scales was seized in Hong Kong. It had an estimated value of $1.25 million and cost the lives of about 1,100 to 6,600 pangolins. While the Black-Bellied Pangolin of Africa is listed as vulnerable, the Chinese Pangolin is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List. This intercepted shipment made its way to Asia from Africa. Without awareness and conservation efforts, the IUCN’s varying degrees of endangerment for all pangolins will all be the same: extinct.
In China and Vietnam (the primary sources of demand), the flesh and blood of both adult and fetuses is consumed as a delicacy that mistakenly is thought to have healing powers. Made of keratin, the scales of the pangolin are also believed to have medicinal and healing properties. But this is the same protein that makes human nails and hair, rhino horns, and bear claws.
Despite the overwhelming lack of scientific evidence that an animal’s keratin has any medicinal properties greater than chewing on your own fingernails, pangolins continued to be slaughtered. But we don’t harvest human beings’ nail clippings because that would be disgusting and seemingly insane. Somehow, this obvious discrepancy is ignored in argument of killing the entirety of a species.
February 17, 2018 will be World Pangolin Day. Hopefully a surge in awareness and support of the conservation efforts saving them will gain traction, and enforcement of their safety will increase. After all, they only give birth to one young pangolin at a time, so their destruction could happen before there’s time to stop it. You can follow all that’s going on on February 17th and share on social media with the hashtag #worldpangolinday.