It’s a most unusual creature. It has scales covering most of its body, walks on it’s hind legs and eats ants. It’s the pangolin. Sadly, if we don’t step up our game to save the endangered pangolin this obscure creature will go extinct.
In Zimbabwe we met Lisa Hywood. Lisa a slender, energetic woman instantly gains your respect. She’s one of those rare people who empowers all around her. No wonder she’s the endangered pangolin’s greatest hope. Here’s what we learned from Lisa.
The Big Problem
Pangolin are caught in the bush and sold in the lucrative illegal wildlife trade. That is local people seek them out and find a buyer. This buyer is connected to the trafficking market and the poor pangolin is shipped off to Asia. Sometimes it arrives dead, sometimes alive. Sometimes it is shipped along and sometimes with a host of others. Reportedly body parts representing a minimum 19,000 pangolins have been found since 2008!
Pangolin are stolen from the wild eaten or sold to others to eat. In poor African countries many survive on hunting for food. This puts everything in the wild at risk to be caught by a poacher’s snare, speared , hunted by dogs, or dug from their burrow. Those killed pangolin that aren’t consumed by their hunter are sold to others for food.
Pangolin are killed for their scales and other body parts which are falsely believed to have medicinal properties. In numerous cultures relying on plant and animal parts for healing most ailments remains the norm. Many years ago an active wildlife conservationist was personally caught the the gut wrenching dilemma of resorting to using such a remedy for an unusual incurable disease of a loved one.
Six Crucial Solutions to Save the Endangered Pangolin Now
These solutions include Rescue, Rehabilitation, Research, Awareness, Enforcement and Legislation. Lisa and her team at the Tikki Hywood Trust address each one. They also work with wildlife conservationists around the globe to do the same.
Pangolins are stolen from the bush in Africa and smuggled to Asia. Along the route a fortunate few are rescued. Pangolins are caught and eaten in impoverished areas. Pangolins are also poached and sold to be used for medicinal purposes. The grand scale of this poaching has led to millions of pangolins dying. No wonder the pangolin is considered the most endangered mammal on the planet! It’s crucial we support folks on the ground like Moses in Uganda who boldly intervenes to rescue poached endangered pangolin.
When it comes to protecting the endangered pangolin, a detailed understanding of current wild populations is particularly vital to develop effective conservation strategies. It’s not enough to say that pangolin numbers are declining due to the wildlife trafficking trade and bush meat killing. The extent of the damage to wild population numbers is difficult to quantify and more effort to gather regional data is imperative.
Rescued pangolin are difficult to rehabilitate. They are ant eaters. Putting a plate full of ants in front of a pangolin simply doesn’t work. At the Tikki Hywood Trust they discovered the workable solution to get rescued, frequently injured and famished, pangolins ready for release. Each rescued pangolin is assigned a caretaker, called a minder. The minder is responsible for his/her charge. They assure the pangolin is kept safe and fed. Each pangolin in rehabilitation is taken out into the bush for feeding. The minder follows the pangolin as it finds its own ants to eat, for about four hours. Once the pangolin has reached the desired weight and is deemed healthy it is ready to be released back into the wild at an undisclosed safe wild place.
At times many of us inadvertently contribute to wildlife poaching. If you’ve ever bought a handbag made out of exotic leather, a piece of jewelry with bone or ivory beads, or snake skin boots… you might have. Some say that the USA is the second largest importer of wildlife products (Asia being the first.)
As far as the pangolin goes, many have not heard of them, few have been privileged to see one. Every year on the third Saturday of February those who care celebrate World Pangolin Day. With educational programs, awareness marches and videos people around the world are made aware of the pangolin’s plight and what they can do to help (sharing via social media and donating.)
International laws are in place to protect the pangolin. It’s a matter of countries around the globe, especially in Africa and Asia, to enforce the laws. Sadly borders are porous and live, dead and even parts of pangolin are smuggled in luggage, under clothing and all sorts of creative ways.
Reports from China of seizures do occur. Reports like the confiscation of 13.1 tons of scales, estimated to come from around 30,000 pangolins and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Or the two seafarers who were caught with pangolin worth $605,000 and sentenced to five years in prison and fined $30,248 each.
However, much more needs to be done to stop the slaughter.
Pangolins are banned from all international commercial trade. Although the pangolin is legally protected more local legislation and enforcement is needed to stop the capturing and killing of wild pangolin. Current legislation includes… The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) increased protection of all pangolin species to the highest level (Appendix I listing), the resolution took effect in January 2017.
What can you do to help?
- Never buy any products that include pangolin body parts
- Get involved politically as you see fit
- Donate to help
- Share this article
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Poster images courtesy of the Tikki Hywood Trust