Despite surviving 80 million years on the planet, this shy, gentle nocturnal ant and termite hunter is running out of time.
The poaching of elephants and rhinos for their horns and tusks is widely publicised, however it is the pangolin that is believed to be the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal.
Native to Africa and Asia, the pangolin is hunted at the rate of one every five minutes. Highly prized in Vietnam and China for both its meat and the believed medicinal benefits of its scales, the pangolin is even used to make jewellery.
There are eight species of pangolin in the world, four Asian and four African – though fossil evidence suggests that they evolved in Europe. They are all now listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered.
A global trade ban was introduced in 2016 and the pangolin has a dedicated awareness day in February each year. In addition, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in his role as Head of United for Wildlife, has thrown his weight behind the plight of the pangolin in a bid to halt the trade for good.
Despite this global spotlight the pangolin’s numbers continue to diminish.
The UK government is hosting an international conference to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. The conference in October this year, will see global leaders join forces to discuss the illegal wildlife trade and how they can better protect the world’s most iconic species from the threat of extinction.
Let’s hope it is in time to save this beautiful creature.
5 Facts about Pangolin
- Pangolin scales are made of keratin, just like our finger nails, and make up 20 per cent of their body weight.
- The word ‘pangolin’ comes from the Malay word ‘penggulung’, which means ‘one that rolls up’. When it is threatened a pangolin will curl itself into a tight ball, which is impenetrable to its natural predators. Sadly this doesn’t include human predators.
- The mammal can consume up to 20,000 ants a day. That’s about 73 million ants a year!
- Pangolins can close their ears and nostrils using strong muscles. This helps protect them from ant attacks.
- They have long, sticky tongues, which are often longer than their body. They also don’t have teeth, so can’t chew. Instead, they have keratinous spines in their stomach and swallow stones that help them grind up their food.
Click here to find out more about the race to save the pangolin.