Consider the lowly, tiny Pangolin – otherwise known as a Scaly Ant-Eater.
Another of the world’s rarest creatures that has no known medical properties is being driven to extinction by demand from Chinese and Vietnamese users. I don’t think they will stop until they have savagely decimated all the world’s exotic creatures, bears; tigers; rhinos; elephants and now the poor pangolin:
Cape Town – Some wild mammal species are being driven to extinction for their fur, hides, horns or tusks, but the pangolin, or scaly anteater, is being eaten out of existence by wealthy humans, the IUCN warned on Tuesday.
“Consumers are willing to pay increasingly high prices for their meat, which is being plated up at banquets across the East as a luxury food”, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said in a statement.
It said the illegal trade in pangolins had now “reached an epic scale”, with all eight species of the worlds only truly scaly mammal now threatened with extinction.
Pangolins occur in Asia and Africa, including in South Africa. They have large sharp scales covering their skin, and roll up into a tight ball when threatened. They are nocturnal, and use their long, sticky tongues to catch insects, mainly ants and termites.
The IUCN said that while the creatures’ scales acted as armour against natural predators, these offered no defence against poachers.
Of the eight species of pangolins around the world, four occur in Asia and four in Africa.
“As the populations of the four Asian pangolin species plummet, traders are now looking to Africa to meet the growing demand”, IUCN said.
Last month, Hong Kong custom authorities seized more than a ton of pangolin scales in a shipping container sent from South Africa.
It was reported at the time as the largest seizure of pangolin at Hong Kong’s ports in five years, and that the scales were worth R5m on the black market. International trade in pangolin is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine, where they are believed to cure a variety of ills, including psoriasis and poor circulation.
In its statement, the IUCN said all eight pangolin species were being illegally sold to buyers in China and Vietnam.
It was launching a conservation action on Tuesday that laid out steps that needed to be taken to clamp down on the illegal trade.
“A vital first step is for the Chinese and Vietnamese governments to conduct an inventory of their pangolin scale stocks and make this publicly available to prove that wild-caught pangolins are no longer supplying the commercial trade”, it said.