Thursday, July 31, 2014

Possible Ecological Effects of Trafficking Pangolins

 I loved reading about the pangolins.  They are incredibly interesting creatures. They are scaly mammals akin to modern day dinosaurs, described as dog dragons.  They are as if something straight out of science fiction.  This makes it hard for me to accept that they are the most trafficked mammals in the world.  How can people accept such a unique creature possibly disappearing from the Earth?  They are practically invincible in wildlife but we are their only threat for the very bizarre reasons of being a delicacy and unverified medicinal purposes.  It seems despite their rarity the trafficking is done for economic incentives while ignoring the possible ecological effects for the future.   There is evidence that ants eat the rubber trees because of the small number of pangolins.  This is only one ecological effect. So little is known about the creature there could be several more ecological consequences to their trafficking. We need to preserve this creature not only because of how fascinating it is, but to uncover more of it’s scientific mystery and discover what it could possibly to for ecology and humanity as a whole. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pangolins: Illegal Consumption of an Endangered Species

By now, I have become quite fond of this scaly creature known as the pangolin. It reminds me of a larger, ant and termite eating, more secretive version of my second grade hamster, Marty. Like Marty, the pangolin enjoys keeping to itself, waking at dusk to begin perusing for some grub. After much dark and secretive wandering, they return to home to burrow and rest after an evening spent filling their bellies. Unlike Marty, who loved his burrow, and who only woke up by the time I was in full shut-eye mode, pangolins are illegally hunted for their meat and scales. Granted, Marty was a  fraction of the size of pangolins and an entirely domesticated animal, still I could not imagine anyone hunting that little, black fur ball. What makes poaching a pangolin so much more devastating is that they are an endangered species protected under national legislation. Their meat is considered a delicacy throughout Asia, India, and Thailand. Furthermore, their scales are used in traditional eastern medicine causing the demand for the pangolin to be ever present.

Now, I loved Marty, but hamsters are definitely not on the protected list under national legislation. Further, he was comfortable in his glass cage, running on his metal wheel and munching on seeds and nuts that he was fed. I cleaned his cage, let him roam in his exercise ball and made sure his cage was odorless and spotless. Marty was okay in captivity. Unlike Marty, the pangolin's survival rate in captivity is at a shockingly low rate due to their inability to digest the food they are given. Along with digestive issues, the stress is such that their survival rate radically diminishes with each day spent in captivity. Although pangolins are an endangered species, there has been little research done on these mammals. Pangolins are poorly understood because they cannot be extensively researched in captivity and are hard to track and record in their natural habitat because of their nocturnal and private demeanor.

You are probably wondering why I chose to compare Marty, my furry hamster, to the pangolin, a wild, scaly anteater. You have heard of hamsters, know their eating habits, where they live, and probably even had one as a school pet. Do you think hamsters are important to your ecosystem? Do they play a vial role in the ecosystem of your home, classroom, pet shop? They provide entertainment, lessons on responsibility and even a friendship. However, Marty and his hamster buddies do little outside the realm of simply being a pet. Yet, we know and want to protect them from dirty cages, disease, predators (Sam the cat). In other words, we care.

Now, let us look at pangolins...They are necessary and vital to the ecosystem through the regulation of ants and termites that threaten plants, trees, crops and buildings. Why aren't we doing more to protect them? Why aren't we finding ways to study them more extensively? If poachers can hunt and sell thousands of pangolins for their meat and scales, surely there is a way we can find a way to learn more about them. We need to learn more, to develop our understanding and begin to care for something so wonderful and vital to the ecosystem.

Below are articles about Pangolins, one in particular highlighting the latest seized pangolin scales in Vietnam.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Black Market China: The Demand for Pangolins

China’s Black Market poses a serious threat to animals around the globe, by illegally supplying exotic animals in respond to the demand for them. One of these threatened animals currently being poached and sold in the Chinese Black market are pangolins, a scaly, clawed mysterious creature about the size as a house cat., a website for Global Black Market information lists pangolin meat as costing $300 per kilogram, and pangolin scales as $3,000 per kilogram. Where does this demand come from?

Pangolin (Gaetan Lee) Tags: london history scale animal museum mammal stuffed december natural scales plates creature 2009 manis anteater pangolin scaly manidae lpate
One of the biggest reasons for the demand for pangolins in China is that their scales are considered to have great medicinal effects. Pangolin scales are rich in keratin, the same protein found in human nails and hair. For this reason, false information stating that ground pangolin scales may help cure ailments like certain types of cancer and asthma. To make matters worse, the growing population in China has also led to a growth in the demand for these scales, which so many believe to have the cure to serious health issues.

A second, possibly more disturbing reason for the demand for pangolins on the Black Market is that they are considered a sought-out delicacy in Chinese and other Asian cuisines. Pangolins are traded frozen and alive, sometimes mixed with snakes and other reptiles to more smoothly pass through the market, and sold to restaurants for a high price. John Sutter, a columnist for CNN traveled to Vietnam and visited a restaurant rumored to prepare pangolin as a dish. He reported seeing a “wild animal” section near the back of the menu, a picture of a live pangolin, and prices. He was told he would have to purchase a whole pangolin at $350 per kilo, and with the smallest pangolin the restaurant had being five kilos, he’d be expected to pay at least $1,750 for his meal. While he did not order a pangolin, he interviewed several Vietnamese citizens who had eaten them before. Pangolins are said to be one of the most expensive meats in Asia, and according to several reports they will always be demanded if their Black Market trade cannot be stopped.

Both of these reasons for the demand of pangolins in Asia can be combated with education and other conservation efforts currently being funded, planned, and implemented.

To learn more about and help these efforts, take a look at these helpful resources:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pangolin Classification and Population

There are several different species of Pangolins around the world.  According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, there are eight different types of Pangolins under the Manidae family.  Most of them are classified as “Near Threatened,” “Endangered,” or “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN.  Pangolin populations have been noticeably decreasing in population, with suspected declines of up to 50% over the last 15 years.

Exact population levels are unknown for Pangolins.  They are very reclusive, and their nocturnal nature makes them extremely difficult to track for a comprehensive population estimate.  In recent years, growing concern over Pangolin trafficking and noticeable population decline have prompted research to verify their population, but no complete data has been finalized yet.  Initial studies have revealed that Asian species of Pangolins are declining in population at a more rapid rate than other species of Pangolins.

For more information on Pangolin classification and population, visit these websites:

International Union for Conservation of Nature

African Wildlife Foundation