Somewhere in the world right now, some endangered animal is being caught and traded to enrich some individual’s purse, with no thought given to the rapid declining population. Some species of tigers, leopards, turtles, pandas and several other animals are caught and killed for what is sometimes, the most ridiculous reason. In fact, the more reduced the population, the more sought after and valuable it becomes, and the vicious cycle continues. The ‘pangolin’ is one of such animals. Much as the name sounds like it’s a musical instrument, we assure you it’s not.
The pangolin is a mammal, which very much exists in eight species, under 3 genera: Manis, Smutsia and Phataginus. Four of the manis species are resident in Asia, and the remaining four species are in Africa, split between the Smutsia and Phataginus genera in two species each.
Of the eight species of pangolin, four (Phataginus tetradactyla, P. tricuspis, Smutsia gigantea, and S. temminckii) are listed as vulnerable, two (Manis crassicaudata and M. culionensis) are listed as endangered, and two (M. pentadactyla and M. javanica) are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species
The Pangolin is an interesting looking creature with some unique features. It is the world’s only mammal with scales, scales so thick that they use them to withstand attacks from dangerous predators, even lions. The pangolin also shares similar characteristics with the anteater – both in looks and feeding habits. It has a long snout and feeds on ants and termites using its sticky tongue which can extend to a length longer than its body. It also emits an odious smell much like a skunk with which to ward off threats.
All species of the pangolin are in danger of being extinct, some more critically than others. In Africa, particularly West African countries like Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin Republic and Nigeria, pangolins are hunted and sold to buyers who use them for traditional medicine. A 2015 research by Maxwell Boakye on pangolin usage was carried out on Ghanaian traditional healers. Findings showed that 13 of the pangolin’s body parts were used to treat both physical and spiritual ailments – with higher demand being for spiritual ailments like rheumatism, infertility, financial rituals and convulsions! Many of these treatments of course have no scientific backings.
In some parts of Asia, Pangolin meat is consumed as a luxury meat or delicacy and you would find Pangolin Soup on the menu of some exotic restaurants in China. In Nigeria, buying a pangolin is as easy as a drive down to some of your local markets where they are kept in cages. The Pangolin doesn’t like stress, bright lights, and doesn’t thrive well in captivity, thus, it’s not known exactly how long a Pangolin can live for outside of captivity.