Monday, July 20, 2009


It's easy to see from these photos why the pangolin, a.k.a. the scaly anteater, is described as a walking pine cone. Unfortunately, that's not enough of a disguise for these rare creatures. They are being poached to extinction in their native habitats of Africa (where they are a popular source of bush meat) and Asia (where their meat is considered a delicacy and their meat, blood, and scales are used in traditional Chinese medicines). The demand for pangolins far outstrips their ability to reproduce, since most of them give birth later in life and to only one baby at a time, and they cannot be bred in captivity. The offspring is born with soft scales and the mother defends it by rolling up around it - the same way that she defends herself. But pangolins are no match for the illegal traders, who have been intercepted with enormous loads, despite a global trade ban: 280 live pangolins seized in Thailand in February 2007, 24 tons of meat and scales seized in Vietnam in February and March 2008, 14 tons of frozen Malayan pangolins siezed in Indonesia in July 2008, 5 tons of pangolin meat (from an estimated 1,481 animals) seized in Vietnam in December 2008.
So the pangolin holds 2 records. It has the longest tongue, measuring more than 2/3 the length of its body - it is anchored in the pelvis and rests in the chest cavity when not in use! And it is the most frequently seized mammal in southeast Asia. As the number of pangolins decrease, the demand for them continues to rise - and smugglers are now turning to Africa to supply the luxury restaurants of China.

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