This photo was taken by Maria Diekmann from REST. (Boix, 2013)
Living in the wilds of Africa and Asia is a reclusive and often unseen group of species. These species all fall under one generic name: Pangolin. The Pangolin is a rather unusual looking creature, their appearance being likened to that of an artichoke, but just what exactly is a Pangolin?
Pangolins are nocturnal hunters, their diet comprising almost exclusively of ants and termites which they dig up using long curved claws. Their back and sides are covered in overlapping scales that protect them from predators, while their underbellies are covered in fur.
Pangolins have long tails that can be used for climbing. Their claws also allow them to swim. When on land some species of Pangolin also walk on around on their back legs, which some people say makes them look like a tiny little T-rex, an adorable T-rex.
Despite their scaly appearance, Pangolins are very cute. They have no teeth, instead the ants and termites they eat are crushed by projections in their stomachs.
Because of their poor eyesight, Pangolins find their prey using their sense of smell. Though their diet and appearance are similar to that of anteaters and armadillos, they are actually closer related to cats, dogs and other carnivores (Save Pangolins, 2016).
The Pangolin is such a cute and important animal, however, they are currently considered to be critically endangered. This is mostly due to the illegal trading of Pangolins to places like China and Vietnam, where their meat is eaten and their skin, scales and blood used for traditional medicines.
Pangolin that is eaten in restaurants isn’t even killed humanely. It is actually brought to the table still alive and then has its throat slit and its blood collected before it is cooked and served for as much as $350 a kilo, keeping in mind that most Pangolins weigh several kilos the average dish would cost over $1000 (Sutter, 2014).
The WWF states that between 2011 and 2013 an estimated 116,990-233,980 pangolins were killed for trading purposes, although this number could be a lot higher (WWF, 2016). This is a ridiculous number for that period of time. This overhunting is causing a drastic decrease in wild Pangolin numbers, particularly in the Asian species.
Pangolins are protected in Bangladesh, China, India, Lao, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, either by national or subnational legislation (The Zoological Society of London, 2016). Despite this though the illegal hunting and trading of Pangolins and their products continues.
Pangolins play a part in maintaining their ecosystems and they’re just weirdly wonderful, more effort needs to be put in to stop the illegal hunting and trading of such an incredible little animal. They are not for our abuse and exploitation, it is our responsibility to protect them, not decimate them for our own uses.
Boix, C., 2013. The birth of a Pangolin. [Online] Available at: http://africageographic.com/blog/the-birth-of-a-pangolin/ [Accessed 7 May 2016].
Save Pangolins, 2016. What Is A Pangolin?. [Online] Available at: http://savepangolins.org/what-is-a-pangolin/ [Accessed 7 May 2016].
Sutter, J. D., 2014. The most trafficked mammal you’ve never heard of. [Online] Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2014/04/opinion/sutter-change-the-list-pangolin-trafficking/ [Accessed 7 May 2016].
The Zoological Society of London, 2016. Chinese pangolin. [Online] Available at: http://www.edgeofexistence.org/mammals/species_info.php?id=1411 [Accessed 7 May 2016].
WWF, 2016. Pangolin. [Online] Available at: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/pangolin [Accessed 7 May 2016].