The Inglorious Road To Extinction: How the adorable pangolin has become the world’s most trafficked mammal
WILDLIFE & CONSERVATION | PANGOLINS
Humanity has taken a severe toll on the survival of other species over the years. Rapid urbanisation, changing dietary habits and general human apathy have wreaked havoc on life in the land, air, and sea. It is believed that we’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. As a collective, we need to do more and address the issues at the heart of it.
Today, TheVibe shifts the focus towards the scaly anteater aka the pangolin, the world’s most trafficked mammal. The reality it would seem for this species is grim… very grim.
On Feb 16, 2019, the world celebrated the Eighth annual World Pangolin Day. Since then, headlines have broken news on a number of busts all over the globe. Yet it seems the news has had a very little real impact on ground. The Straight Times reported yet another seizure of 14 tons of pangolin scales, equivalent of 36,000 pangolins, reportedly worth $50 million in Singapore, earlier last week. Many believe this still just be the tip of the iceberg.
THE INHUMAN FACTOR
Pangolins have become the world’s most trafficked animal, and according to the latest statistics, the world has lost 1 million pangolins, thereby massively reducing the pangolin population by a staggering 94%.
This nocturnal animal inhabits across continents of Asia and Africa but very few people are aware of its existence. Easily mistaken for another mammal- Armadillo, this scaly animal is today on the verge of extinction. Like most wildlife hunted for taxidermy luxury items, medicinal purposes, and meat, pangolins too are hunted for the same reasons. Today, poaching and deforestation are the biggest threats faced by Pangolin.
The recent haul at Singapore of Pangolin scales reportedly amounted to 39 million dollars, the cargo was intercepted in Singapore as it journeyed from Nigeria to Vietnam. The alarming rate at which this animal is poached gathers the attention of conservatories across the world. And the world has a good reason to be worried.
Pangolins are scaly animals, their body covered with layered scales. Its appearance representing that of a pine cone, the scales are sturdy protecting them from predators and are made of Keratin – which is also found in human hair and nails. Often mistaken for a reptile, this animal is a mammal. The term pangolin is derived from the Malay word “pengguling” meaning ‘the one who rolls’, attributing to pangolins rolling up into a ball when they are threatened.
Pangolins rely heavily on their sense of smell and hearing as they dig for food, their diet comprises of ants and termites. They have poor vision and are completely defenseless against poachers. Hence, they get poached easily in large-scale, organised groups.
Some media reports claim that pangolins are poached every five minutes.
Despite stringent national and international laws, illegal trafficking has driven pangolins on the verge of extinction.
Pangolins are in high demand in China, Vietnam and West Africa. Its scale is used in traditional Chinese medicine, its meat considered a delicacy often to establish one’s social hierarchy. Pangolins in West Africa is a booming industry of bushmeat trade. Here too, the scales as ingredients in folk medicine.
THE INDIAN CONNECTION
Pangolins in India are abundantly found in the foothills of the Himalayas – in the regions of the northeast, and the southern hill. In recent years, the police have increased its pressure on pangolin poachers in these regions. Poachers in Nagaland cross the border to Myanmar to trade the animal. Poaching pangolins is a lucrative business- one hunt amounting to Rs.9000/- four times the average monthly wage in the region. Orissa is also one of the regions where Pangolins are hunted extensively, for ritualistic purposes such as Shikar Utsav.
Despite such alarming wildlife crimes committed there is only a fracture of information available on the Indian pangolin – ( Manis crassicaudata) which means there is a need for extensive research on pangolin population and its geographical distribution to preserve and protect it from future poaching activities.
TIME TO BE WOKE
Of the eight other Pangolin species, four are listed as vulnerable, two enlisted as endangered and two other as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. In 2016, over 180 countries signed a treaty to ban the trade of any animal goods, taking preventive measures in an effort to help conserve wildlife.
This was a comforting decision, showing a glimmer of hope in the face of increasingly grim environmental crimes being committed on a colossal level. You can do your part through active awareness and through conscious buying. Any effort to spread awareness can help salvage the worsening situation.
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