The pangolin is a small mysterious creature with scales, a long nose, and big claws. There are eight species of pangolin: four Asian species and four African species. One of the unfortunate common characteristic among these eight species of pangolin is that they are all in danger of being drove to extinction. Currently, the four Asian species of pangolin are in the most danger, due to the fact that the largest demand for pangolin meat and scales comes from China and Vietnam. However, conservationists are already seeing an increase in pangolin poaching in Africa as a response to the decreasing numbers of pangolins left in Asia.
First of the four Asian species of pangolin is the Chinese, or “Formosan” pangolin (Manis pentadactyla.) This species has been classified Critically endangered, and is one of the most sought out species of pangolin in the traditional Chinese medicine market. While these animals were once known to be very abundant as recently as the 1980’s, they are now extremely rare and highly endangered. The second species of Asian pangolin is the Malayan, or “Sunda” (Manis javanica.) This pangolin is much like the Chinese pangolin, but much less information is known about them. The Malayan pangolin has been classified Critically Endangered, but only one study on them has been published. The third and fourth species of Asian pangolin are the Indian, or “thick-tailed” pangolin (manis crassicaudata,) and the Philippine or “Palawan” pangolin (manis culionesis.) Little is known of these two species, but they are both classified as Endangered.
The “Tree” or African white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) is the first of the African pangolin species. It has been classified as Vulnerable, and is the fourth harvested species across 47 African sites. While the tree pangolin may be the most common African forest species, experts and conservationists believe that their endangerment status should be updated to reflect their significant decline in population over the past decade, at nearly 25%. The second species of African pangolin is the Giant ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea.) Named for its size, this pangolin can reach lengths of up to six feet, and up to 73 pounds! Like the Tree pangolin, the Giant ground pangolin is also classified as Vulnerable and has also experienced a nearly 25% decrease in population in the last 15 years. The third and fourth species of African pangolin are the Cape, or “Temminck’s” ground pangolin (Manis temminckii,) and the Long-tailed or black-bellied pangolin (Uromanis tetradactyla.) These two species are classified as Vulnerable.
To learn more about the eight species of pangolin, and what is being done to protect and conserve them, take a look at these helpful websites:www.savepangolins.org