This Saturday will mark the celebration of the most common victim of the wildlife trade: and you’ve probably never even heard of it – the pangolin.The Chinese pangolin, widely hunted for its scales and its meat is listed as Endangered. Little is known about these creatures, their nocturnal habits are part of the cause. But governments and large NGOs too have consistently neglected these creatures: their campaigns are usually figureheaded by charismatic species like rhino, elephants, and Bengal tigers. But the speed at which these animals are vanishing from East Asia means we need to act fast.
These creatures look and behave a lot like anteaters but they are mammals. Pangolins are hunted for their scales and their meat which is considered a delicacy. According to TRAFFIC, 22,000 pangolins were illegally traded in the Malaysian state of Sabah alone over the last 18 months. In Vietnam, it is estimated that 40-60,000 pangolins were killed in 2011. This is just a fraction of the vast numbers of pangolins that have been illegally killed and traded worldwide.
Though these animals are nocturnal and elusive, hunters have found ingenious ways to capture them. They are often kept alive until they are sold to be eaten, and are forced to live in unbearably harsh conditions. They are often force-fed starches to fatten them up.
We know so little about the pangolin trade that it is difficult to fight. We know that the Asian pangolins are at highest risk and once the pangolins run out in Asia, traffickers will shift their focus to African pangolins. The 4 Asian species of pangolin are on the brink of extinction already: it is time to act now before the same happens to pangolins in Africa.