Pangolins, sometimes known as scaly ant eaters, are the most trafficked animal in the world! Unfortunately due to their low profile they don't always get the attention they need. There are reports of around 10,000 animals per year being trafficked, and as we all know only a small percentage (often 10%) of trafficking cases are reported which means up to 100,000 animals per year could be getting poached and sold. In 2011 20,000 pangolins were confiscated from Vietnam alone!
So why are pangolins so desired? Well there are a few reasons. Firstly anything rare can be considered valuable, and their meat is not only rare but can fetch up to $300 per kilogram at Vietnamese restaurants. There is also a strong belief in traditional medicine that their scales can cure cancer, stimulate lactation and virility. Finally their scales are also used in elaborate clothing designs and armoury.
Although pangolin trade was banned in 2000 it still continues, but thankfully is on the decline thanks to support from many different animal welfare and wildlife organisations. The eight species of pangolin have also been added as threatened to the IUCCN red list.
I was lucky enough to work with these animals while in Laos. We had four under our care, but unfortunately even in the week I was there one was stolen from the sanctuary. This is an all to common occurrence with poverty stricken communities surrounding such an expensive animal. They are also a low risk animal to steal as they are not aggressive and do not make noise. A lot of education is in place to try and teach people the importance of every species, and at we need to stop the trade of wild animals.
You can help pangolins by volunteering or donating to wildlife Warriors around the world. Also look into the products you buy, especially overseas. Buying fur, meat and animal parts overseas can encourage the trade in endangered and threatened species so make sure you do some research first.