Pangolins celebrated on World Pangolin Day

Did you know it was World Pangolin Day this weekend just past? Do you even know what a pangolin is? If not, prepare to fall in love with this intriguing creature.

If you have never seen a pangolin before, imagine an anteater covered in scales. There are eight species of pangolin, four in Africa and four in Asia.  While some species live on the ground, others have a strong prehensile tail which is perfect for a life spent climbing trees.

Secretive and nocturnal, pangolins are able to roll into a tight ball when feeling threatened. They like to eat termites and ants with their long, sticky tongues and it has been estimated an adult can consume about 70 million insects per year!

Unfortunately, pangolins are under threat from illegal wildlife trade as their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same stuff your hair and nails are made from and yet, people still believe they have medicinal properties.

Today, pangolin populations in Southeast Asia are threatened by an increase in demand, which as populations decline, has forced up prices making Asian species such as the Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica) very valuable. Illegal hunting is widespread and thousands of pangolins are being smuggled across borders to supply demand for their meat and scales.

Luckily for pangolins, there are some dedicated conservationists fighting for their survival. To mark World Pangolin Day, a number of these scientists have been sharing their stories about the work they do to learn more about these animals and how they can be protected.

Elisa Panjang from the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group is investigating the activity and habitat use of the Endangered Sunda pangolin and determining its conservation status in Sabah, East Malaysia.

Over in Africa, Darren Pietersen, Africa Vice-Chair, IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and Chair of the African Pangolin Working Group writes about how the four species of African pangolins are finally starting to receive the attention they deserve. Read both Elisa’s and Darren’s blogs here.

Pangolins should be celebrated every day, not just on World Pangolin Day but hopefully one day soon, people will realise that pangolins belong in the wild, and not in a spoonful of medicine.  

Want to know more?

There are more blogs, each one about a different species of pangolin, available to read now on the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group website. You will also find information and pictures about each species of pangolin, as well as information about how you can get involved with pangolin conservation.

There are also lots more photos and videos of pangolins on the ARkive website.

Declaration signed to tackle illegal wildlife trade

In recognition of the serious threat the illegal wildlife trade poses to the survival of many species, a declaration to eradicate the market for illegal wildlife products and ensure effective deterrents has been signed by delegates from 46 different countries and 11 UN organisations.

As poaching reaches unprecedented levels, wildlife crime is becoming increasingly well-organised across international borders. Serious incidents are becoming more frequent and occurring in places that were previously considered safe for wildlife and the rangers dedicated to their protection. According to the declaration signed today, the illegal trade deprives countries and communities of their natural capital and cultural heritage, with serious social and economic consequences. There is also growing concern that the illegal trade in wildlife products is supporting other criminal activities.

Recognising that action is required, representatives from governments and conservation organisations came together to work out a deal to enforce laws broken by illegal wildlife trade and support efforts already being made to stop poaching and the demand for products such as ivory and rhino horn. Following recent news that 2013 was the worst year ever for rhino poaching in South Africa – with 1,004 rhinos killed – this declaration comes at a critical time for many species but action must be taken quickly if it is to make a difference.

Download the full declaration here.