About the size of a house cat, but covered with armored scales and an anteater-long snout, pangolins are not the most charismatic of the animal kingdom. However, according to BBC News and National Geographic, they are the most trafficked.
Found throughout Asia and Africa, although increasingly less so now, pangolins are prized for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in Asia, as well as their scales - which is used for (unproven) traditional medicinal and jewelry - and even their blood, which is believed to be an aphrodisiac. Because of this, it is estimated that an approximate 100,000 individuals are poached every year. As National Geographic points out, “that’s one pangolin captured every five minutes.” Although exact pangolin populations are unknown, it is assumed that their numbers are on the steady decline.
However, there is some upbeat news! Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a statement announcing that they are considering listing seven pangolin species under the Endangered Species Act. If this pulls through, the U.S. would make it illegal to import whole or parts of pangolins into the country or sell them across state lines.
Although the biggest market is in China, Vietnam, and Thailand, the U.S. still holds part of the responsibility for pangolin trade. “With a species as imperiled as pangolins, we need to do whatever we can to shut down that market,” said Jeff Flocken, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s North America regional director.
Support for this law would also send a message to other countries to encourage pangolin conservation and better enforcement of the illegal trade. “Having an endangered listing tells the world the U.S. is very serious about this,” said Sarah Uhlemann, the Center for Biological Diversity’s international program director.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will report on their decision by mid-July. In the meantime, places like the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program’s rescue center
in Vietnam are doing their best to restore illegally seized pangolins to their natural habitats.
Sources: National Geographic
, BBC News