Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sara Mizzi - NWF Mag - Pangolins: Too Prized to Survive? - In appreciation for Pangolins and the heroes fighting to help them--like Ray Jansen, Jonathan Baillie and Maria Diekmann. --tma

12 day old pangolin pup orphan in hands of caregiver

ON APRIL 23, 2015, police and conservationists in Sumatra, Indonesia, seized an illegal shipment of pangolins valued at approximately $1.8 million dollars. Destined for China, the haul included five tons of frozen pangolins, 170 pounds of pangolin scales and 96 live pangolins—one of the largest such seizures ever recorded.
Sadly, the news signaled a growing trend in the smuggling of pangolins—scaly, cat-sized mammals from Asia and Africa that are little known and increasingly coveted for meat and traditional medicine. In another recent bust, for example, customs officials at Vietnam’s airport in Ho Chi Minh City seized some 94 pounds of pangolin scales found in a smuggler’s luggage. Unfortunately, most such shipments escape notice.
Based solely on the tons of scales intercepted in the past decade, “the number of pangolins traded is estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000 animals,” says Ray Jansen, co-chair of the African Pangolin Working Group (APWG). “However, this is only thought to represent about 10 percent of what actually goes on behind the scenes.” Indeed, the wildlife-trade monitoring network TRAFFIC believes an estimated 90 percent of the pangolin trade goes undetected, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that at least one million animals have been poached from the wild in the past 10 years.
“Pangolins are literally being eaten to extinction,” says Jonathan Baillie, co-chair of the IUCN’s Pangolin Specialist Group. Prompted in part by the crisis, the IUCN last year upgraded all eight pangolin species on its Red List of Threatened Species, listing two of the four Asian species—the Sunda and the Chinese pangolin—as critically endangered.

To spotlight the problem and discuss solutions, APWG convened an International Conference on Pangolin Conservation, Trade and Rehabilitation in South Africa in October 2015. “Our aim is to share knowledge and expertise in an attempt to better understand these unique mammals and to stop the decline of all eight species of pangolin globally,” says Jansen. Given their secretive nature, however, pangolins won’t be easy to understand—or to save. ...