Poaching Pangolins, Studying Pangolins

One of the most extraordinarily mysterious creatures on Earth is the pangolin, a scaly clawed mammal found in Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, there are two very sad truths about these animals: they are in danger of going completely extinct due to poaching for illegal wildlife trade, and there is very little known about them and their involvement in the illegal wildlife trade. These are serious issues to have hand in hand, because until experts and conservationists have the information they need, they cannot adequately protect the pangolins from the ongoing threat of poaching.

For the past 15-20 years, most of the poaching activity has been in Asia, with the Chinese pangolin and Malayan pangolin being the most threatened. Pangolins are poached and illegally shipped dead and alive disguised with other scaly animals such as snakes and lizards, and then find their way through secret means to the Chinese black market and several restaurants across China and Vietnam where they are prepared and presented as a luxurious delicacy. Asian species of pangolin have experienced a tremendous loss of population over the past decade, at almost 25%. Half of these species are already classifies as endangered, while some experts have claimed that certain species may actually already be extinct. For this reason, conservationists have been seeing an increase in poaching African pangolins. If measures are not taken to combat this issue, we will undoubtedly begin to see the same population loss in African species. Increased law enforcement and stronger penalties for offenders will help the problem of poaching, but it is not enough. Further research is needed for conservationists to better approach means of protection.

Pangolins.org, a site which advocates for the protection of pangolins, states “One of the biggest challenges in pangolin conservation is that we know very little about these secretive, elusive creatures.” The Asian Malayan pangolin, for example has only had one research study published. This is a serious problem because in order for conservationists to carry out plans and policies to protect these endangered animals, they need to know more about their population size, reproduction, general ecology, as well as their involvement in black market trade. Currently, pangolins in conservation captivities experience a 71% or higher mortality rate during their first year of life in captivity. More information about the pangolin’s ecology may greatly aid in better management of these animals. In addition, increased knowledge about the pangolins way of life and habitat can help conservationists identify situations in which pangolins are more vulnerable to poaching, and can then safely capture pangolins, to later release back into the wild.

More research is needed in order to effectively fight against the heartbreaking problem of poaching pangolins, one of the most interesting animals on Earth. Pangolins.org gravely puts it, “If current trends continue in the face of limited knowledge about their population size, reproduction, and general ecology, this species could spiral completely out of existence within the next ten years.

To learn more about the need for more research and steps being taken now to fight the illegal trade of pangolins, visit these helpful websites: