Written by Arlenea Halyda, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
Photo from Born Free Foundation
Unfortunately… They’re on the brink of extinction.
Oh no, how is this happening?
A bit of background: among many illegal markets, the illegal wildlife trade market is one of the largest types of trafficking. To make it worse, it’s also one of the most profitable multinational crimes, with a value estimation of the goods totaling about $10 to $20 billion USD per year.
And pangolin trade just so happens to be the number one contributor to the illegal wildlife trade.
The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared that more than one million pangolins from all eight species have been poached from the wild, which accounts for 20% of the total illegal wildlife trafficking. According to the Worldwatch Institute, pangolins are captured more frequently than other animals in Asia’s wildlife trade black market.
The pangolin trade includes illegal trafficking and transactions of pangolin-derived products, and it’s happening all over the world.
The trade spans all over Asia and Africa, with China and Vietnam as the major destination of the shipment, and Nigeria and the Republic of Congo as the major source of the shipment. But the country involved is not limited to these four—the United States, Mexico, Japan, and a number of Asia states (such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and others) are also a participant.
Bottom line is, the threat of pangolin extinction is a worldwide issue.
Why is this happening to pangolins?
The most prominent reasons are because they’re sought out for foods, medicines, and belief purposes.
Pangolins can be sold at a ridiculously high price. Due to this, pangolin meat is considered to be an exotic dish and a luxurious delicacy in Vietnam and China, exclusive only to the wealthy. Its consumption is often intended to be a display of wealth and status.
Aside from food, pangolin meat and scales are also believed to cure numerous health issues.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is infamous for using pangolins in various medications—despite pangolin products having no proven medicinal values or benefits. Its scales alone are a valuable asset for many TCM practitioners, wholesale markets, and even hospitals!
Not only in China, but many tribes in Africa also utilized pangolin body parts, whether to aid health complications or for spiritual purposes. It’s believed to improve people’s lives and protect them from malicious spirits.
The uniqueness of pangolins is why they’re so expensive and sought after. Unfortunately, many poachers don’t care about sustainability. This is why, more than ever, it’s urgent for us to protect pangolins.
But why should we care about pangolins?
An ethical answer would be because pangolins are living beings who are equal to us, and hunting them to near extinction is not right. Animals shouldn’t have to be useful to be worth saving, especially when humans are the ones causing their demise.
But a more concrete answer would be because pangolins play a critical role in the ecosystem. The earth where pangolins are living is provided with all-natural pest control, seeing as pangolins’ diet consists of termites and ants. On top of that, pangolins are wonderful tenders of soil. What’s more amazing is that they do these things throughout their daily lives.
So what can we do to protect pangolins?
A good way to help is to raise awareness about this situation. Let people, especially kids, know that there’s a precious species of animal that’s almost extinct, and it’s happening right under our noses. Show them why they should care, why it’s a severe problem, and why we’re all responsible for it (even if we’ve never consumed any pangolin products before)!
Another great way is to donate money to an organization that cares about this cause. Ensure that your money goes directly to a pangolin conservation center and is being used to preserve the survival of pangolins. Pangolin Crisis Fund and WWF is a good place to start, though there are many other amazing organizations out there that also fight for pangolins’ future.
And of course, the bare minimum: don’t consume any pangolin products!
Let’s save pangolins while we still can!
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