Saturday the 16th of February, World Pangolin Day 2013, marks a special date for two of our most charismatic yet most threatened EDGE species.
Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are an amazing and distinct group of mammals with eight species found across Africa and Asia. Occupying a highly specialised niche, these incredible insectivores have evolved a unique and bizarre morphology, which enables them to delve into the nests of their favourite prey – ants and termites. Large digging claws allow pangolins to rip into these nests whilst a sticky, 40cm long tongue can devour the contents. Most impressive, however, is their armour, a coat of thick scaly plates, which makes up a quarter of the animals weight and covers the vast majority of its body.
Unfortunately pangolins today are suffering from increasing levels of persecution – their scales are desirable in traditional Chinese medicine and their flesh is a delicacy in some cultures – with two species at particular risk of extinction. These are the Sunda and the Chinese pangolins, both in the top 100 EDGE mammals.
Much of the illicit trade in pangolin body parts – which far surpasses that of rhino or elephant parts – is driven by markets in China and Vietnam. In recent years a number of massive seizures have highlighted the developing threat to these poorly known critters.
Thankfully, pangolin conservation is also advancing rapidly. At EDGE we have fellows (Ambika Khatiwada and Tran Quang Phuong) working on both of our endangered pangolin species. Their fellowships are not only contributing to our understanding of these enigmatic creatures, but are actively working to rehabilitate and reintroduce live animals that have been recovered from the illicit pangolin trade.
The last 12 months has also seen the creation of the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group a global collection of scientists and conservationists ideally placed to study and protect these animals. Already, their website works as a hub for pangolin conservation and in the following 12 months we can expect landmarks such as the first pangolin conservation conference and reassessment of each species conservation status on the IUCN Red List. EDGE again are working closely with this group.
What pangolins really need is the addition of your voice on the 16th February. Join us in promoting these incredible creatures so that more people can understand the drastic threats facing these amazing animals and can understand why it is so important that we do all we can to save them.