Covered in an armor of scales and sporting a tongue that reaches over 40 cm long, the pangolin is one of the most unusual-looking mammals in the animal kingdom. It carries its young on its back, and when threatened, rolls up into a ball to protect itself from predators. The pangolin plays a critical role in its environment by acting as a natural pest control. Scientists have recorded that pangolins consume 70 million insects every year! They also contribute to a healthier ecosystem by aerating the soil and spreading nutrients from one place to another when they use their long claws to dig for insects.
Many people are surprised to learn that the pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world. According to TRAFFIC, 20 tonnes of pangolins and pangolin parts were trafficked internationally every year from 2010-2015.
Photo: Scott Hurd
Smutsia temminckii (ground pangolin) and Manis pentadactyla (Chinese pangolin) are among the eight different species of pangolins
Vulnerable to Critically Endangered
Where do pangolins live?
Asia and Africa
Savannah, forest, grassland
Poaching and illegal trade is causing pangolin populations to plummet across the world. In some forms of traditional medicine, pangolin scales are thought to be a cure for a variety of illnesses. This belief, along with the desire to eat pangolin meat as a delicacy, has put a deadly target on the pangolin.
Often times, individual poachers illegally capture pangolins and sell them to regional dealers who accumulate parts. The dealers then sell the pangolin parts to traffickers who transport the pangolin parts across country borders. TRAFFIC reports that over the last decade, close to one million pangolins are thought to have been captured from the wild and sold into the black market trade.
IFAW works with governments, scientists, and other conservation groups to save the pangolin and end this poaching crisis. In 2016, IFAW led a group of conservation experts to bring attention to the international need for greater pangolin protections. As a result of our joint effort between multiple NGOs and governments, CITES listed all eight species of pangolins from Appendix II to Appendix I, prohibiting international trade of pangolins and their body parts for commercial purposes.
IFAW works to protect pangolins and prevent trafficking through every step of the illegal trade chain – from training wildlife rangers on the ground to mobilizing consumers to reduce demand. We support cross-border collaboration among law enforcement agencies to disrupt wildlife trafficking networks. After two enforcement workshops IFAW facilitated between China and Vietnam, large seizures of elephant ivory and pangolin scales were made in key Asian ports.
IFAW also implements social behavior change campaigns in China to reduce consumer demand for many wildlife species, including pangolins. We work with online companies to adopt stronger policies against the online trade of wildlife. As early as in 2008, Alibaba and its Chinese subsidiary Taobao became the first e-commerce giants in the world to ban pangolin trade from their platforms. IFAW’s campaign warning consumers of the legal ramifications of pangolin trade and consumption are posted at major transportation hubs across China and online.
How can you help pangolins?
Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world and need all the help they can get.
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