World Land Trust (WLT) is adding its voice to calls to save the critically endangered pangolin.
One of four species of Asian pangolin and of the eight found worldwide, the Sunda Pangolin is native to south east Asia and one of the most poached animals in the world.
Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, and pangolin scales are openly traded in street markets in the Far East.
Considered to have medicinal and aphrodisiacal qualities, pangolin scales (they were once more commonly known as Scaly Anteaters) change hands for up to $1,500 per kilo in the Far East. In reality, as the scales are made of keratin (like human hair and nails – and rhino horn), they have no medicinal qualities.
Although the illegal slaughter of rhino and elephant for their body parts is widely known, there is much less public awareness of plight of pangolins at the hands of poachers.
“Having survived on the Earth for around 80 million years, these elusive creatures have more than earned their right to be protected and celebrated,” said John Burton, Chief Executive of World Land Trust.
In 2013 the first global conference on pangolin conservation was held in Singapore and the IUCN’s newly formed pangolin specialist group has now published a detailed action plan. The Sunda Pangolin is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
LEAP Spiral, one of WLT’s conservation partners in Borneo, works in partnership with the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, which has captured video of a pangolin climbing trees in its natural environment.
Akin to anteaters of South and Central America, with their long, sticky tongues, these bizarre yet charismatic mammals are shy, reclusive and primarily nocturnal. They feed on ants and termites, often consuming as many as 200,000 in one sitting.
WLT Patron Sir David Attenborough has listed the Sunda Pangolin as one of the 10 creatures he would put on his personal ark, describing it as “one of the most endearing animals I have ever met”.
In 2012, the first World Pangolin Day was held to promote awareness of the plight of this little known creature. In 2015, World Pangolin Day is celebrated on 21 February.
Sunda Pangolin image attribution: Piekfrosch at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL] (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons