A World Awareness to Protect the Pangolins

By

Nicki Geigert

Do you know what a Pangolin is? I saw my first Pangolin many years ago in the wild, one evening on safari in Africa. I was absolutely fascinated with them. They have an incredible sense of smell and can go instantly to an underground ant nest, dig a bit, and then stick their long skinny tongues down the hole to slurp all the ants up into their mouths, much as people do when slurping up spaghetti. When they walk through the bush, they often walk upright like a kangaroo, on their two hind legs, and keep their balance with their tail.

Most have never heard of a Pangolin, and they have no idea Pangolins are the most poached, trafficked, and one of the most endangered species on the planet. Asians use their scales as a traditional Chinese medicine for all sorts of ailments from excessive nervousness, demon possession, malaria, deafness, and asthma, to arthritis, throughout Asia. The problem is that these poor innocent animals are being poached and horribly mutilated and killed when their scales have no proven medicinal value. Both Rhino horn and Pangolin scales have the same kind of Keratin as a persons’ fingernails and hair. And who knows how many Rhino horns have been smuggled as well? People could grind up their own hair and fingernails and get the same results as grinding up pangolin scales and rhino horn. To be so ignorant of the suffering and pure destruction of these unique animals is unconscionable. This ignorance of the world, and all those who believe in using these poor animals for a remedy, need to be educated. The destruction and the poaching must stop! The very rich of China also like to eat Pangolin and show off their wealth by treating their friends and colleagues to poached Pangolin meat.

No larger than a housecat, the poor little animals are caught by snares when coming out of their burrows, macheted to death, and skinned to include their scales.  Others are captured alive to transport for meat and have deep cuts, torn scales, and all sorts of issues trying to free themselves.  Most don’t survive. When saved, the poor tortured Pangolins are usually on the brink of death, dehydrated, and very emaciated. They are taken to specific Veterinary hospitals where veterinarians and volunteers help bring as many as possible back from the point of death. The head of the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, said that was only about 20% of the total number of poached animals. The actual number of dead or dying poached and smuggled Pangolins is one million in the past ten years. The most important thing is to try to get to the Pangolins before they die enroute to Asia.  

Some information on Pangolins has been seen lately in National Geographic magazine. Several articles in the newspapers revealed the sheer volume of dead Pangolins and Pangolins scales, seized from smugglers, that were destined for China. Every news article refers to vast amounts of tons, not pounds, of dead, poached Pangolins and the rescue of some. One article revealed that authorities seized 97 tons of Pangolin scales from poachers last year.

Many adopt Pangolins and provide monetary support for their care.  Some are released back into the wild, but in secret protected areas.  Pangolins have only one Pango pup per year, which makes the vulnerability of their lives even more uncertain.

Eye of the Pangolin is a documentary released on Endangered Species Day in 2019. It shows how these extremely rare African Pangolins are brutally slaughtered. Check it out, and please help spread the word to help save the Pangolins.

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