Home News Anti-Poaching Against All Odds: The Scale of Extinction

Against All Odds: The Scale of Extinction

Pangolins are one of our star species here at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF). Unfortunately, they are in our spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Pangolins have the unenviable reputation as the most trafficked mammal (and potentially animal) in the world.

In the last decade, it is estimated over one million pangolins have been trafficked and killed as part of the international, illegal wildlife trade. These are shy, elusive animals that we know little about. Human actions are decimating their populations before we can even ascertain how many are left. Only our immediate intervention will save them from extinction.

Image Credit: Save Vietnam’s Wildlife.

A Fight on Many Fronts

Pangolins are targeted everywhere they can be found. At local level, they are hunted as bushmeat in Africa – but are also highly valued as a delicacy in Asia. Then, there’s their unique armour plating. Pangolins are the only mammal to have scales – and it is this seemingly innocuous feature (their scales are made of keratin – the same as our hair and toenails) that makes them one of the highest valued commodities in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as well as other Asian markets. This is all despite no medicinal value being attributed to them in scientific studies.

There are eight species of pangolin – four each respectively split across Africa and Asia. Relentless demand means that each of the Asian species are now listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), and those involved in their trade are turning their attention to African species – all of which are still considered vulnerable or endangered.

Perhaps nothing illuminates the tragic state of affairs for pangolins more than recent findings that suggest a ninth species of pangolin may exist – after a genetic study of confiscated contraband scales was seized in Hong Kong. This potential new species would be the fifth Asian pangolin to be recognised – if it hasn’t already disappeared. With no known specimens or formal description, its existence can’t be verified beyond DNA analysis from these seized scales, making its adopted scientific name, Manis mysteria (the mysterious pangolin) fitting, if starkly unnerving.

Our Work

DSWF is fighting to stop the illegal trade in pangolin parts and meat as well as taking steps to protect them in their natural habitat.

Demand reduction is a key part of our focus. Through expansive community programmes that range from billboard advertising to alternative livelihood programmes and outreach, we are working to secure sustainable futures for both pangolins and those living alongside them. We also ensure the risks associated with poaching pangolins are well known and act as a deterrent. To date, DSWF-supported campaigns have reached over 300 million people across China and Vietnam, where demand is highest.

In classrooms across Africa and Asia, we are inspiring the next generation to protect their precious pangolin populations and understand their value in an ecosystem rather than on the black market. But our education work isn’t just restricted to schools. More broadly, we are dispelling the myths surrounding the medicinal properties of pangolin scales through workshops and publicity available to all.

With so little known about pangolins, research is vital to better understand how we can help. The insights our on-the-ground operations gather on their behaviour and needs can be directly applied to improved protection strategies.

We’re also ensuring justice is done – seeing investigations through to the end and securing convictions against criminal syndicates and individuals. DSWF also supports and funds ranger and anti-poaching teams by providing the equipment and training necessary to stop the poaching and trafficking of pangolins at its source.

Make Double the Difference for Pangolins This December

This Giving Tuesday and for one week only, you can make double the difference for pangolins. From 28 November through to 5 December, your donation will be matched and doubled up to £15,000. So, we’re asking you to embrace the season of giving by digging deep and giving a donation when the campaign goes live.

Please remember that only donations made through the Big Give website are doubled – so, go straight there to contribute to our last appeal of 2023. You can find the link here.

Image Credit: Game Rangers International.

The Big Give Christmas Challenge

Gareth Thomas
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Donate between 28 November and 5 December to double your impact! All donations to Big Give will be doubled at no extra cost to donors.

DSWF is raising funds for the elusive pangolin, the most illegally trafficked animal in the world. Help us to protect pangolins.

Drag Read