All pangolins now threatened with extinction, and two considered Critically Endangered
The tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis) has been upgraded from Near Threatened to Vulnerable by an IUCN Red List update. Photo by: the African Pangolin Working Group (APWG).
One of the world’s most bizarre animal groups is now at risk of complete eradication, according to an update of the IUCN Red List. Pangolins, which look and behave similarly to (scaly) anteaters yet are unrelated, are being illegally consumed out of existence due to a thriving trade in East Asia. In fact, the new update lists all eight pangolin species as threatened by extinction for first time, with two—the Chinese and the Sunda pangolin—now considered Critically Endangered.
“In the 21st Century we really should not be eating species to extinction—there is simply no excuse for allowing this illegal trade to continue,” said Jonathan Baillie, Conservation Program Director at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and co-chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, which was established in 2012.
“All eight pangolin species are now listed as threatened with extinction, largely because they are being illegally traded to China and Vietnam,” Baillie added.
The Sunda pangolin, is now listed as Critically Endangered.
Found in Africa and Asia, the world’s eight pangolin species represent some 70 million years of unique evolution. In fact, these animals—which are the only mammals to sport proper scales—are so distinct they have their own Order: Pholidota. In addition to their tell-tale scales, pangolins have a long tongue for eating insects, impressive claws for digging into termite mounds, and an odorous anal gland for repealing predators. But, weirdly, pangolins are most closely related to carnivores.
Yet pangolins have for many years been the most-trafficked animal on the face of the Earth. In fact, the Pangolin Specialist Group hosted by the ZSL estimates that more than a million pangolins have been stolen from the wild in the past ten years alone. In fact, the group estimates that the Sunda pangolin populations has fallen by up to 80 percent over the past 21 years.
Pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine while their meat is increasingly eaten as a mark of status in countries like China and Vietnam. However, like rhino horn, there is no evidence that pangolin scales have any curative properties. The trade has become so unsustainable that researchers now fear traders are moving from largely-depleted populations in Asia to source pangolins from Africa. The four species in Africa are already threatened by bushmeat hunting for local meat consumption.
Along with the clarion call about pangolins slipping closer to extinction, the Pangolin Specialist Group is also announcing a conservation action plan, dubbed “Scaling up pangolin conservation.”
“A vital first step is for the Chinese and Vietnamese governments to conduct an inventory of their pangolin scale stocks and make this publicly available to prove that wild-caught pangolins are no longer supplying the commercial trade,” said conservationist Dan Challender, a Co-Chair of Pangolin Specialist Group.
Most important, says the group, is reducing demand for this imperiled group.
The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is now considered Critically Endangered. Photo by: Tou Feng.
The World’s Pangolin Species
Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), Endangered (previously Near Threatened)
Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), Endangered (previously Near Threatened)
Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Critically Endangered (previously Endangered)
Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), Critically Endangered (previously Endangered)
Giant pangolin (Manis gigantea), Vulnerable (previously Least Concern)
Ground pangolin (Manis temminckii), Vulnerable (previously Least Concern)
Tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis), Vulnerable (previously Near Threatened)
Long-tailed pangolin (Manis tetradactyla), Vulnerable (previously Least Concern)
WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS AT THE BOTTOM
The ground pangolin (Manis temminckii) has been moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable. Photo by: APWG.
Pangolin scales for sale. Photo by: Dan Challender.
The Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is now listed as Endangered. Photo by: Sandip Kumar/Creative Commons 3.0.
Holding a tree pangolin. Photo by: APWG.
Pangolins are being slaughtered en masse for their scales (pictured here) and their meat. Photo by: Dan Challender.
Roasting a pangolin in a fire. Pangolins are eaten as bushmeat in Africa, but the biggest threat is the booming market in China and Vietnam. Photo by: APWG.
Two pangolins (on the left) hang as bushmeat in Africa. Photo by: APWG.
(07/24/2014) Lush Cosmetics has agreed to support an effort to battle trafficking of the Sunda pangolin.
(05/20/2014) In one of the biggest pangolin trafficking cases yet recorded in China, officials confiscated 956 animals stuffed into 189 coolers this month. The dead pangolins were being carried overland in a truck, with the total haul weighing four tonnes. The traffickers were caught at the border of Guangdong Province. If convicted, they face up to ten years in jail.
(05/19/2014) One of the world’s least known wild cats may have taken on more than it could handle in a recent video released by the Gashaka Biodiversity Project from Nigeria’s biggest national park, Gashaka Gumti.
(04/29/2014) It’s well known that much of the world’s massive illegal wildlife trade ends up in China, including poached tigers, pangolins, and bears. But now those who order pangolin fetuses, tiger blood, or bear bile at a restaurant or market may see significant jail time.
(08/20/2013) Six men have been sentenced to a year in jail after being convicted of smuggling 150 pangolins in peninsular Malaysia, reports Annamiticus. The men were also given fines totaling over $100,000.
(07/23/2013) Demand for scales, meat, and even fetuses of pangolins have pushed all eight species of this unique mammalian order—Pholidota—toward extinction, according to the world’s first ever pangolin conference with the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Species Survival Commission (IUCN-SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group. Meeting in Singapore earlier this month, 40 conservationists from 14 countries discussed the plight of these little-known scaly mammals and how to turn around their global decline.
(04/15/2013) What do you do when you’re smuggling 22,000 pounds of an endangered species on your boat? Answer: crash into a protected coral reef in the Philippines. Last Monday a Chinese vessel slammed into a coral reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park; on Saturday the Filipino coastguard discovered 400 boxes of pangolin meat while inspecting the ship. Pangolins, which are scaly insect-eating mammals, have been decimated by the illegal wildlife trade as their scales are prized in Chinese Traditional Medicine and their meat is considered a delicacy.
(02/11/2013) Last year tens-of-thousands of elephants and hundreds of rhinos were butchered to feed the growing appetite of the illegal wildlife trade. This black market, largely centered in East Asia, also devoured tigers, sharks, leopards, turtles, snakes, and hundreds of other animals. Estimated at $19 billion annually, the booming trade has periodically captured global media attention, even receiving a high-profile speech by U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, last year. But the biggest mammal victim of the wildlife trade is not elephants, rhinos, or tigers, but an animal that receives little notice and even less press: the pangolin. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, you’re not alone.