Conservationists Call for Action After Brutality of Pangolin Poaching is Exposed

Pangolins are becoming increasingly known for the unfortunate distinction of being the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world, but a new study is shining a light on how brutal and unsustainable the trade is getting.

The two-year study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and World Animal Protection, was examining traditional hunting practices in Assam, India, to see why pangolins were being killed and how valuable the market is there in an effort to develop solutions to protect them.

Undercover footage taken by researchers as part of that study has exposed the cruel reality of the trade in pangolins by capturing the heartbreaking slaughter of one who was hunted and killed for its body parts.

According to World Animal Protection, the terrified pangolin tried to hide from hunters in a hollowed-out tree while they tugged on her tail. They used axes to cut the tree, but when that failed they lit a fire to smoke her out. She tried to run, but was captured before being taken back to a hut and bludgeoned with a machete before being thrown in boiling water.

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“This footage shines a spotlight on how truly shocking the practice of hunting pangolins is. Not only is this a major conservation issue – it’s a devastating animal welfare concern,”  said the study’s lead author Dr. Neil D’Cruze,  Global Wildlife Adviser for World Animal Protection. “If we want to protect pangolins from pain and suffering in the countries they come from, we need to tackle the illegal poaching trade.”

Sadly, these shy, gentle and unique little creatures are being hunted to the brink of extinction for both their meat, which is considered a delicacy by the affluent in some countries, and for their scales, which are mistakenly believed to have medicinal properties.

Today, all eight species of pangolins who are native to Africa and Asia are listed as threatened with extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Chinese and Sunda pangolins are listed as “Critically Endangered,” while Indian and Philippine pangolins are “Endangered” and all four species in Africa are listed as “Vulnerable.”

“Increasing demand driven by traditional Asian medicine is making pangolins a lucrative catch,” said Professor David Macdonald, WildCRU, department of Zoology, University of Oxford. “It’s easy to see why they are being commercially exploited, as scales from just one pangolin can offer a life changing sum of money for people in these communities, but it’s in no way sustainable. Wild pangolin numbers are beginning to plummet.”

According to the IUCN, more than one million have been poached between 2003 and 2013, which breaks down to one pangolin being taken from the wild every five minutes.

In response, the study’s authors are calling for changes to protect pangolins from the illegal wildlife trade, including stronger enforcement of national and international laws intended to protect them, their removal from the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China to reduce their use in traditional medicine, along with the promotion of alternatives to pangolin parts, and increased partnerships to end the demand for pangolins.

They’re also calling for measures that would alleviate poverty in rural communities that are being exploited by traffickers and support for alternative livelihoods so people don’t need to slaughter them for an income they can’t turn down.

Photo credit: Getty Images

80 comments

Kerri D
Kerri D2 days ago

TYFS

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Mia B
Mia B2 days ago

Thanks

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Olivia M
Olivia M3 days ago

thanks for sharing

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danii p
danii p3 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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danii p
danii p3 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Emma L
Emma L4 days ago

thank you

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Diane P
Diane P4 days ago

Wish there was a way to rid the world of poachers and trophy hunters! The world would be a better place without them. These wonderful creatures could live in peace! Hunters disgust me!

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David C
David C5 days ago

thank you, stop the killings

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill6 days ago

thanks

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danii p
danii p6 days ago

Thank you.

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