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  • Writer's pictureBecky Faulks

World Pangolin Day helps support the World’s Most Trafficked Mammal

Pangolins are listed as critically endangered, but they are being supported by organisations across the globe

Temminck's pangolin - photo credit Warren Pearson / IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group


World Pangolin Day fell on Saturday 17th February this year, and with it came pangolin parties, social media fundraisers and wildlife programmes dedicated to the cause.

Pangolins, which are shy and harmless relatives of the mongoose, are the most trafficked wild mammals in the world. There are eight species of pangolin, all of which are listed as ‘threatened with extinction’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Four of these species are found in Africa, and four in Asia. Pangolins are the only mammals wholly covered in scales, which they use to protect themselves from predators. As insectivores they have no teeth, instead using a long, sticky tongue to eat ants and termites.

Hunting and poaching are the main threats to a pangolin’s safety, with tens of thousands killed every year for their meat, which is considered a delicacy among the wealthy in China and Vietnam. Their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine, the results of which are unsubstantiated. Much like the horn of the rhino, which is also coveted by illegal traders, the scales of the pangolin are made from keratin, the same material that can be found in our own hair and nails.

Photo by Geranimo on Unsplash

Pangolins are already protected. In 2016, they were given the highest level of protection under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and international trade for commercial purposes is prohibited by law. However, these protections are not enough and illegal hunting and trading is still rife.

There are multiple organisations trying to help the cause, each in different ways. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is heavily focused on consumer education, leading high profile public service campaigns to change perceptions and increase awareness. The Pangolin Crisis Fund sends 100% of its donations to pangolin conservation projects on the field, and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) works to expose and end illegal wildlife trade. Rescue centres like Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre in Singapore are rescuing pangolins and providing them with veterinary care before releasing them back into the wild. As well as providing the animals with the necessary healthcare, reproductive checks are also carried out to protect the future of the species.

‘If an adult male comes to us, we actually will also collect semen and assess the sperm,’ says Dr Charlene Yeong, veterinarian at Mandai Wildlife Group and Mandai Nature. ‘And this is so that if in future we need to use assisted reproductive techniques for pangolins we’re ready for it.’

Pangolins are receiving the help they so desperately need, but their future is not an assured one. If you would like to help pangolins, you can contribute by donating funds, posting on social media and being careful not to participate in the illegal pangolin trade by eating their meat or buying their scales.  


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