Have you ever heard of a pangolin? Some might say they resemble an artichoke, anteater (unrelated to the anteater family), or even a Pokémon character. They are often referred to as scaly anteaters because of their long tongues and similar diets, as they both primarily eat insects such as ants and termites. They are nocturnal creatures, and covered in sharp scales which is their primary source of protection from predators. There are eight different species of pangolin, and all are protected under international laws that range from vulnerable to critically endangered.
Pangolins are highly subjected to poaching in Asia and Africa by the tens and thousands each year, which is why they are under such critical protection. According to author Rachael Bale, from National Geographic, pangolins are considered one of the most trafficked mammals in the world. In Asia, the demands for these shy, solitary creatures are especially great, as pangolin meat and scales are extremely valued. They are often ordered as a celebration or delicacy, and run at an expensive rate in most restaurants. The scales are strongly sought out for traditional Chinese medicine because they are thought to be a cure for many fatal illnesses.
Efforts to save this species are becoming increasingly prevalent. Spreading awareness about this animal is crucial for saving them, because many people have never heard of pangolins, which doesn’t put them on a very high profile. Lisa Hywood, an advocate for animal protection who founded a wildlife conservation sanctuary in Zimbabwe, started one of the few pangolin sanctuaries in the world. This safe haven has saved many of this species from being poached. According to Rosalie Gnam from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, organizations are also finding creative ways to gain awareness about pangolins, such as creating games, apps, and comics. The World Wildlife Foundation, among other organizations, is also contributing by lobbying to implement stronger national laws and enforcement for the pangolin’s protection. Continuous efforts like these could potentially help save this species.
As a result, awareness appears to be making progress and leading to rescue attempts. Recently, over 100 pangolins were recovered alive from being transported to Malaysia due to an anti-smuggling search. According to Bale, the pangolins are to be released in the nearest national park. This raid was due to a tip from the community, which goes to show these efforts to save this species is starting to make way. Albeit it’s not guaranteed they won’t be captured again, these lucky mammals in particular got a happy ending thanks to community efforts. Check out the links below for pangolin facts, pictures, and more about what is being done to save the species.