Saturday, October 1, 2016

Poachers Have Pangolins Up A Tree

Endangered Animals Want to Be Left Alone

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
Do you know what a pangolin is? Most people have never heard of these solitary and nocturnal creatures that live in hollow trees and burrows.

The cute, anteater-like animals, that are native to Asia and Africa, are the only known mammals to have scales. They also hold the unwanted distinction of being the #1 most-poached and trafficked mammal in the world.

With more than a million pangolins killed in the past decade, the pangolin is on the road to extinction unless laws are enacted - and enforced - to save it. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has the pangolin on its Red List of animals threatened with extinction.

What makes pangolins such a desirable target for poachers? It's because of the high demand in the Asia marketplace for their scales, which are used in everything from making jewelry and accessories to medicines and haute cuisine.

Medicine shops in Asia sell the scales as a cure for virtually anything from arthritis to cancer. Restaurants grind up the scales for smoothie drinks and to use as spices in soups and stews. Pangolin meat is also served as an "exotic delicacy" that's said to be an aphrodisiac.  
Ranging in size from 1 - 31/2-ft-long, pangolins' bodies are covered in scales made up of keratin (the substance in human hair and nails). A type of body armor provided by nature to protect it, the scales have had the opposite effect, putting pangolins at risk from poachers who can sell the scales for hundreds of dollars per pound.  

In June 2016, 4 tons of pangolin scales were seized by Hong Kong authorities after they were found in a shipment originating from Cameroon, Africa. The value of the scales was estimated to be $1.25 million. The smuggled shipment was labeled on the manifest as "sliced plastics."

SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel learned that the illegal trafficking of wildlife around the world is over $20 billion. What's more, pangolin trafficking is getting worse each year, fueled by the growing middle class in China and other Asian countries, such as Vietnam. In those cultures being able to afford the pangolin scales and meat is viewed as a sign of status and wealth.

The pangolin's name is derived from the Malay word pengguling - "to roll up." That's what a pangolin does when it's scared or defending itself, curling up into a ball with its head tucked underneath its tail. Normally, this - along with it's armor of scales and the ability to emit a skunk-like odor - would be enough to keep predators at bay.

But,when the predator is a global network of poachers, pengguling provides scant protection.

 Like an ostrich putting its head in the sand, the poor pangolin is defenseless...
unless people around the world step in to stop the illegal trafficking.   

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Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hold the exclusive rights to this copyrighted material. Publications wishing to reprint it may contact them at Individuals and non-profit groups are welcome to post it on social media sites as long as credit is given. 

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