Pangolins are now the most illegally traded mammal in the world, with more than one million individuals estimated to have been snatched from the wild over the past decade and it is considered by many to be among the most threatened species of mammal in Asia. Out of the four Asian species of pangolins, the status of two are critically endangered and the other two are endangered. Watch the video on the sidebar at the right, “Pangolins in Peril” by TRAFFIC International for a brief introduction to the current status of the pangolin population.

Dead pangolins seized by Thai officials

Dead pangolins seized by Thai officials; PC: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

The major threats to their species are unsurprisingly human actions, namely consumer demand and destruction of their habitat. Pangolins are highly valued for their meat and they are considered as a delicacy in China and Vietnam. Their thick skins are often fashioned into accessories such as belts, bags and shoes. Their body parts, especially their scales are often used in traditional Asian medicine and are fabled to be able to treat illnesses such as cancer, asthma and reproductive problems.

PHoto Credits: Brad Crittenden

Pangolin used in traditional medicine; PC: Brad Crittenden

Photo Credit: Rich Garella

Pangolin skin; PC: Rich Garella

Pangolin meat and products are hence extremely high in demand as its consumption confers onto the consumer perceived medicinal benefits and indicates a higher status. Furthermore, anthropogenic pressure results in the large-scale, rapid loss of their forest habitat which is devastating because pangolins live in a highly selective environment and it is hard for them to adapt to new living areas once the old ones are gone.

Why then would it concern us if Asian pangolins disappeared from the face of the earth forever? Firstly, we should care because pangolin blood and body parts are vital ingredients used in traditional Chinese medicine and its extinction would lead to a loss in such medicinal value. However, if we view the world from a bio-centric instead of an anthropocentric perspective, humans eating another species into extinction should be a horrifying and highly worrying phenomenon to all of us.

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