Until the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic the most I knew about pangolins was that they were scaly and cute. In the early days of the pandemic they were blamed, along with bats, for the transmission to humans of the virus. They are considered a delicacy in Asia and they can transmit illnesses.
What I didn’t know is that they are considered the most trafficked mammal in the world. Their scales are considered medicinal in Traditional Asian Medicine. I also didn’t know that they are considered protectors of forest land in Asia and Africa. The animals are prodigious consumers of termites and thus have a huge role in keeping Africa and Asia green.
Unfortunately, all eight species of the small animals, four each in Africa and Asia, are threatened and even in danger of extinction. Chinese pangolins are severely threatened. In the last few decades China has modernized. Millions of Chinese are wealthier and the combination of hectic growth, pressure on natural resources and increased wealth is impacting their survival.
The Chinese government has recently increased its efforts to protect the animals. They now have the highest level of protection by law. Their scales can no longer be used in Chinese medicine. An estimated 195,000 of the animals died in China in 2019 alone for their scales. But since the eight species are all threatened more needs to be done.
Enter Jackie Chan, Wild Aid and The Nature Conservancy who have teamed up to produce a short Public Service Announcement. Link Here. Chan, one of the word’s best known action stars, delivers a short message. He urges people not to eat them or use their scales for medicine. He teaches the small creatures a few martial arts moves in the process. WildAid is an international organization working to end the multibillion trade in wildlife. A great proportion of that is in Asian and African countries. Poachers try to satisfy desires for illegal pets, exotic meat and fish and traditional medicines.
The organization works to reduce demand in emerging economies. It supports local efforts to reduce demand for poaching and increase local awareness of the issues. The Nature Conservancy approaches issues with a different lens. It focuses on such issues as protecting land, providing food and water stability and creating healthy cities.
The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to run in the billions and be nearly as big and illegal business as the drug and weapons industry. Many organizations in the US work to end the trade and rescue creatures exploited in the trade. The trade includes capturing animals for entertainment display, poaching of endangered animals for food, and actions such as “shark finning” where animals are mutilated for desired body parts.