Pangolins may be the most endangered species you’ve never heard of. These charmingly odd, termite-eating mammals are covered from head to tail with large, overlapping scales. But one of their most interesting attributes — their ability to roll up into near-perfect balls when threatened — makes these critters easy pickings for poachers.
That’s because unfortunately, pangolins’ scales are in high — and increasing — demand in Asian medicine, and their meat is considered a delicacy in China. An estimated 1 million pangolins were removed from the wild over the past decade to meet this growing demand, making them the world’s most illegally trafficked mammals.
Some Asian pangolin species have astonishingly already declined by more than 50 percent in recent years, and poachers are now turning to Africa’s pangolins to meet the burgeoning demand. Pangolins may be poached to extinction in the coming decades if we don’t crack down on the trade.
The Center and our partners are working hard to combat this rampant poaching and save one of nature’s most unusual creatures. In 2015 we petitioned for U.S. Endangered Species Act protection for pangolins -- and in response to our petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conceded that protections may be warranted and will be inviting information from scientists and the public about the pangolins’ status and threats to determine whether an endangered listing would be appropriate. We’re also working to strengthen trade prohibitions on the international level. And as we fight for pangolins on both those legal fronts, we’re raising awareness to help save these largely unknown but gravely imperiled animals.
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Contact: Sarah Uhlemann