Monday, August 12, 2013

Rant: Stop Eating Pangolin!

Shark fins get all the attention.

You've probably read plenty of articles calling for bans on shark fin soup, a famous Chinese soup, with a history extending back centuries to at least the Ming Dynasty, if not older. Millions of sharks have been slaughtered for only their fins, the rest of their bodies tossed back into the sea. The outrage has been loud and prevalent, and there is nothing wrong with that. Except that some of that outrage should be directed toward protecting other endangered species, like pangolin.

Pangolin. You probably have never heard of them before. And you probably didn't know that they were endangered. I know that I wasn't aware of that fact until recently. They just haven't received sufficient publicity, haven't been brought before enough of the public. It is time that they had the spotlight shined on their plight.

They have no teeth but have a long, sticky tongue. They primarily dine on ants and termites. When threatened, they usually choose to roll up into a ball, protected by their overlapping scales. And they are endangered because too many people are illegally catching them to dine on their meat and to use their scales in medicine.

Also known as scaly anteaters, there are eight species of Pangolin, four in Africa and four in Asia. They are cute creatures and pose no threat to man. They actually help with pest control, and it is estimated that a single pangolin might be able to consume around 70 million insects in a single year. As many pangolin live hidden underground, scientists don't know much about their behavior. And with their dwindling numbers, it is even harder to learn about them.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), trade in the Asian species is illegal and trade in the African species is severely restricted. Despite its illegality, there is a large blackmarket trade in these creatures, with the primary markets being in China and Vietnam. They enjoy the taste of its meat, but also use its other body parts for medicinal purposes. Their scales are though to cure everything from cancer to asthma, though there is absolutely no scientific evidence that they possess any efficacy.

From 2011 to August 2013, it is estimated that 91,390 and 182,780 pangolin were illegally slaughtered. Last week, seven people were arrested in India for smuggling 70 kilograms of pangolin scales, an amount that could have come from nearly 300 pangolin. In April, French authorities seized 50 kilograms of pangolin scales that were headed to Vietnam. This is a serious issue but not enough people people in the U.S. are aware of this issue.

Now that you know about pangolin, then I hope you will lend some of your outrage to their plight. For more information, you can check out a couple organizations dedicated to helping these scaly anteaters, including Save Pangolins and Project Pangolin,


Adam said...

Rest assured, I have now eaten my last pangolin

Paul said...

Yes! This little known animal needs a lot of public support and action before its eaten to extinction. Great post.