The elusive pangolin has been ‘thrown onto the scales’ recently due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Up until now the pangolin has been a relatively unknown species despite being the most trafficked mammal in the world.
Pangolins are strange-looking scaly anteaters which resemble a prehistoric artichoke on four legs.
They are completely covered in armour-like scales. These scales are made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails and rhino horn. When threatened pangolins roll into a ball and use their scaly armour to protect themselves.
A single pangolin can consume up to 70 million insects per year, meaning they are hugely important in keeping insect populations down and regulating the balance in ecosystems.
The exact pangolin population figure remains unknown due to the species’ shy nature and nocturnal habits. What is known is that over one million pangolins are believed to have been traded illegally in the last decade.
Pangolins are in high demand for their meat which is considered a local delicacy in Asia. Their scales are also used for medicinal purposes in China, and their leather for wearable goods in the USA.
The four Asian species of pangolin have almost been poached to extinction. Illegal wildlife trafficking networks have shifted their attention to Africa in an attempt to satisfy growing consumer demand for pangolin.
Image Credit: Gareth Thomas
Image Credit: Thilo Florian
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) works at all levels of the illegal wildlife chain to protect pangolins and help to reduce their demand on the black market and as a consumer product.
We work with ground-based conservation partners to prevent pangolin poaching at its source, funding law enforcement efforts in Africa by tackling the illegal trafficking of the species.
By supporting wildlife rangers on the ground and ensuring they have the equipment they need and operational mobility we can directly prevent the poaching and trafficking of pangolins, protecting populations across the continent.
DSWF supports large-scale demand reduction campaigns in consumer countries like Vietnam, China and Nigeria.
By dispelling the myths that pangolin products can cure diseases and illnesses, we can decrease the demand for them in consumer countries, therefore reducing their use and value in the illegal wildlife trade.
“Human consumption and the antiquated belief that pangolin scales hold curative properties have pushed the species to the brink of extinction. With over 300 pangolins being trafficked illegally every day the time to act is now if we are to save the species.”
Georgina Lamb, Chief Executive at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Find out more
Alongside the illegal wildlife trade, local bushmeat hunting is also threatening pangolins. Read more here.
Learn more about the illegal trade of pangolins – the most trafficked mammal in the world and how DSWF is working to stop this.
Did you know two species of African pangolins are arboreal, meaning they live in trees? Learn more precious pangolin facts here.
DSWF is working to protect pangolins in Africa and Asia. We fund rescue and rehabilitation programmes as well as undercover investigations.
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