This World Pangolin Day, meet the little known, but loveable critter

Pangolins hold the inglorious distinction of being the most heavily trafficked wild mammal in the world. Photo by Sandip kumar Can you identify the animal above? Is it a pinecone? Maybe a walking artichoke? Actually, it is one of the most unique mammals in the world.

This is a pangolin, the planet’s only scaly mammal.

These shy and nocturnal animals boast eight species, four native to South and Southeast Asia and four that are found in sub-Saharan Africa. They forage for ants and termites at night and sleep in trees holes and underground burrows during the day.

And unlike most animals with scales, they are pretty darn loveable.

They also need our help.

Pangolins hold the inglorious distinction of being the most heavily trafficked wild mammal in the world. Conservationists estimate that more than one million pangolins have been hunted or poached in the last decade.

Some populations in China, parts of Indonesia, and the Philippines are well on their way to being wiped out, and may already be gone.

They’re most commonly taken from the wild and illegally shipped to China and Vietnam for their meat (long considered a delicacy in Asia) or scales (an ingredient sometimes used in traditional Asian medicine).

But conservationists are fighting back to save pangolins from this destructive trade. Today marks the third annual World Pangolin Day, an effort to raise awareness about these unique animals and the threats they face.  

Animal protection groups are also coming together to advance our understanding of the pangolin. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has established a group of scientists, conservationists and specialists to continue studying pangolins and their threats, and design strategies to better inform conservation actions. 

I’m proud to be a member of this committed group.

We at IFAW are helping conserve pangolins every day through our excellent wildlife trade program, which supports wildlife law enforcement in Africa and Asia to detect, thwart, and apprehend smugglers and poachers who illegally hunt and trade high-value wildlife species like pangolins. 

We are also working diligently to create better laws and policies for pangolins in both range countries and in consumer nations like the US and China.   

Together, we can prevent the extinction of this unique and loveable animal, and we will continue to work to do so.

You can celebrate World Pangolin Day by tweeting with the hashtag #WorldPangolinDay or learning more about pangolins alongside the IUCN on their Facebook page.

Stay tuned for more information from IFAW on our efforts to stop illegal wildlife trade and save animals like pangolins, and tigers, and elephants.

--JF

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