Thursday, April 10, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Plight of the Pangolin

Chinese pangolin, Manis pentadactyla (from Elephant Journal);
this species and the Sunda or Malayan pangolin, Manis javanica,
 are listed as endangered by the IUCN.

When I was a college undergraduate, I took a mammalogy course which introduced me to a great many species I never knew existed.  The one that fascinated me most was the pangolin, or scaly anteater.  Ask someone to name their favorite wild mammal (not domestic or feral) and most will mention something large.  Many of these charismatic megafauna are terrestrial carnivores like wolves or one of the big cats, or perhaps impressive herbivores such as elephants or moose.  Some people prefer large sea creatures like whales or seals, but very few will select a low profile species.  The pangolin is a perfect example.  The odd little mammal from tropical Asia and Africa is unknown to most of us, and this could unfortunately prove to be its undoing.

According to a recent article by CNN columnist John D. Sutter, pangolins are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia as well as useful for medicinal purposes.  As a result, a booming illegal pangolin trade is rapidly decimating Asian populations of this docile animal, whose main defense is to curl up in a ball exposing only its tough scales.

From Field Herp Forum

This behavior is fine protection from nonhuman predators, but of no help at all against human poachers.  As to why we should even be interested in saving pangolins, these nocturnal edentate insectivores with the prehensile tail eat ants and termites, helping to control their populations and keep any damage they cause (both environmental and economic) in check.  The following list of mostly light-hearted reasons (except the last one) for caring about pangolins comes from the article:

A link is provided to another article listing seven ways to help save the pangolin.  One intriguing option suggested is a petition to Disney Pixar Studios requesting the creation of an animated film featuring a pangolin!  What better way to familiarize humans, especially the younger generations, with this unique mammal?  I think a pangolin would make a great cartoon character:

"A carolin' pangolin practicin' mandolin" from Left-Handed Toons

Over a dozen people have started petitions on asking Disney to make this film, including a young woman named Kit Skogsbergh, whose petition is the one I have signed.  If you too are concerned about the plight of the pangolin, you may want to sign one of these petitions, or consider helping in other ways.  Share links to pangolin information sites, such as the ones suggested in the articles mentioned in this post.  (A few other sites to check out are,, and Earth Touch News Network, among others.)  Support organizations which are working to raise awareness of pangolins and save them from extinction.  Above all, spread the word to anyone who might be interested, if they only knew these awesome creatures exist.

Did you know that pangolins only produce one offspring per pregnancy?
What an adorable baby! (from Further and Better)

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