Pangolins under threat

Over a hundred years of combined bush experience in the African Insight Office and we have seen Pangolin less than a handful of times – one hand that is. The reasons for this is that they are nocturnal and they are RARE and getting rarer by the minute.The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has them classified under Critically Endangered.

So what’s the big deal? Why do people want pangolins? Once again our problems are the Chinese and Vietnamese who are importing (illegally) thousands of these animals for their meat, their skins and their scales. Their meat is reputed to be sweet and very tasty, their skins are better than crocodile’s so the leather is used for manufacturing boots. Their scales being worn as fashion accessories and some parts of the pangolin are reputed to have medicinal properties.


A pangolin bracelet

The only thing known about the illegal trade in pangolins is that it is happening at an alarming rate. Authorities don’t know where they are coming from or where they are going – bar Asia. What is known is that they suffer – during transport, in captivity and in death. When the animal is prepared for cooking its head is smashed against a table or wall to knock it out, tied up by its back legs, and its throat slit to obtain the blood, presumably also for some medicinal potion.

Pangolins have very few means of defending themselves. They roll up into a ball using their razor sharp scales for protection; they spray a foul smelling skunk-like vapor and they can run at a whopping 5 km/hr. For anyone wanting to catch one of these animals, their defenses are negligible, so pretty easy to catch.
What is it with the Asians – why do they always target the endangered species? If the pangolins had all the medicinal attributes that the Asians believe them to have, pangolins would live forever, never get sick and be able to use their medicinal properties to ward off grubby little hands! They cannot – so obviously they are not supernatural creatures with magical healing properties so leave them alone!

A final ‘nail-in-the-coffin’ is that the pangolins are losing their natural habitats to development at a distressing rate. (The only way to get rid of any animal permanently is to get rid of its habitat)!

Nigel Anderson
Guide for African Insight


About Andrew Anderson

Managing Director: African Insight - Travel Experiences That Make A Difference African Insight - Explorations Tourism Concessionaire - Somkhanda Game Reserve
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