Forget cat videos. The pangolin is the cutest animal you’ve never heard of. And it’s under major threat.
We’d never even heard of a pangolin until a friend posted a chilling piece about how they’re being hunted into extinction in China, Vietnam and Africa. Now we’re noticing the cute little armoured creatures everywhere. And feeling sorrier and sorrier for them by the minute. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, over a million are estimated to have been killed in the past decade and all eight types of the species are now vulnerable to imminent extinction.
A pangolin looks like a mythological mammal concocted by a team of be-hoodied games developers or an animation team at Disney; it ‘s not unlike a pineapple with legs or the lovechild of a snake and an otter. If that’s not endearing enough, consider this- it carries its young around on top of its tail and when it’s afraid, it rolls up in a tight little ball so its armour protects it from its natural predators. Unfortunately, it never counted on a predator ten times its size with opposable thumbs, dogs and Bugs Bunny dollar signs in its eyes. And it’s no match for it. In fact, the way it curls up makes it even easier for a hunter to scoop it up and throw it in a bag.
The pangolin’s a far too gentle sort- toothless and placid. In a perfect world it would just gambol merrily along on its hind legs looking for ants or swing from trees by its tail. It would hurt a flea but not much else.
So, why the poaching? Across Asia, people are keen to get their mitts on dried pangolin scales because they’re reputed to cure anything from cancer and arthritis to acne and infertility. The meat is an added bonus, a gourmet treat served in top restaurants. At a Hanoi market, the scales, which are supposed to be illegal to trade, ultimately sell for 1500 bucks a kilo and the appetite for them is seemingly insatiable. They’re traded openly despite being outlawed.
A handful of conservationists, including Prince William and David Attenborough, are fighting to stop the illegal killing and trading of the pangolin before it’s too late. If you’d like to help their cause or learn more, visit wildaid.org/pangolins and http://www.savevietnamswildlife.org, both of which are dedicated to rescuing the world’s most trafficked mammal.