By: Makena Dyck
Every 5 minutes one pangolin gets poached from the wild. In the last decade over 1 million pangolins were poached. The explosion of poaching pangolins has almost led them to extinction, which I find heartbreaking as they are such a fascinating animal.
Wait A Minute, What Is A Pangolin?
The most unique feature of the pangolin is that they’re the only mammal known to be completely covered in scales. Pangolins use their scales to help protect them from predators and other threats. As a result, if a pangolin feels threatened, they curl up into a tight ball and allow their scales to protect them. The pangolins defence mechanism is similar to thus of a banded armadillo. Pangolins are carnivorous animals and consume a variety of ant, termite and larvae species. All of the pangolin’s features have earned them the nickname of “scaly anteater”. Pangolins are very gentle towards humans and their traits make them a prime target for poaching
Pangolins, unfortunately hold the record for the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal. Pangolin trafficking mainly occurs for their scales and meat. Their meat is a luxury food and eaten to prove social status. Pangolin scales are made of keratin which is the same protein that forms our nails. Scales are often turned into a powder or paste before being consumed. Traditional Chinese medicine uses scales to treat a variety of health conditions. Medical conditions that uses scales as treatment include arthritis and wound healing. In addition, some people also use scales for spiritual protection. There is no scientific basis that proves the scales have any significant health or medical benefits.
Recently, China has implemented laws that remove pangolin scales from the listing of ingredients approved for use in traditional Chinese medicine. No law can completely stop the trafficking of pangolins, especially on the black market but I hope that it will slow down the demand for pangolin products.
How The Loss Of Pangolins Effects The Environment And Humans
The consummation and trafficking of pangolins are a big threat to humans and the environment. Illegal wildlife trade can be dangerous because animals carry many viruses which can lead to global pandemics such as COVID-19. As a matter of fact, Pangolins are one of two animal hosts of COVID-19. At the begging of the pandemic, pangolins were even considered to be the origin of the virus. Trafficking animals increases the risk of introducing new viruses and diseases to the world.
The poaching of pangolins from their natural habitat is happening at an accelerated rate which causes serious damage to the ecosystem. One adult pangolin can eat up to 70 million insects a year. This consumption allows for insect populations to stay at a normal level. Pangolins consumption of insects benefit rural villages that are near by to the pangolins natural habitat. Therefore, their consumption of insects can help avoid structural damage to buildings caused by termites. They also eat a lot of bugs that could cause damage to agriculture and crops. In other words, pangolins can help prevent food insecurity amongst rural areas.
Overall, the pangolin is such a cool and unique specie. To summarize, there are many things that we can learn from the poaching of pangolins such as how animal trafficking can affect the spread of viruses. As well as how the endangerment and extinction of any animal can have serious effects and consequences on humans and ecosystems. I truly hope that pangolins will be around for further generations to wonder “what on earth is that?”, like I did the first time I saw one.