Ac­tivists try to pro­tect en­dan­gered pan­golins

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD -

JOHANNESBU­RG — Some con­ser­va­tion­ists in South Africa worked to pro­tect en­dan­gered pan­golins Satur­day on World Pan­golin Day, in­clud­ing car­ing for a few of the an­i­mals that have been res­cued from traf­fick­ers.

The eighth an­nual cel­e­bra­tion raised aware­ness about the shy, noc­tur­nal anteater, which some wildlife or­ga­ni­za­tions say is the world’s most traf­ficked an­i­mal.

In South Africa, traf­fick­ers of­ten sell pan­golin meat lo­cally and ship the scales to Asia, where they are used in tra­di­tional medicine. The grow­ing il­le­gal trade has prompted plans in South Africa for a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter for sick or res­cued pan­golins as well as the de­ploy­ment of snif­fer dogs trained to de­tect the scales’ pun­gent aroma.

Africa’s four species of pan­golins are un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from poach­ers be­cause Asia’s species have been dec­i­mated, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

While com­mer­cial trade in all species is for­bid­den, in­ter­na­tional con­fis­ca­tions of African pan­golin scales amounted to about 47 tons in 2017, more than dou­ble the quan­tity seized in the pre­vi­ous year, said the African Pan­golin Work­ing Group, a con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion based in South Africa.

Dogs have been trained to check for hid­den pan­golin scales at South African bor­ders and there are plans to cre­ate a “pan­ga­lo­rium” — a re­search and med­i­cal cen­ter for pan­golins, in­clud­ing the grow­ing num­ber of live an­i­mals seized in st­ing op­er­a­tions.

Pan­golin scales con­tain ker­atin, a pro­tein found in rhino horn and hu­man fin­ger­nails.

There is no sci­en­tific proof they pro­vide any medic­i­nal value. Con­ser­va­tion­ists say over 1 mil­lion pan­golins have been poached since around 2000; the kinds range from vul­ner­a­ble to crit­i­cally en­dan­gered on a list of threat­ened species.

THEMBA HADEBE/AP

Pan­golins are con­sid­ered to be one of the most traf­ficked an­i­mals in the world, ac­cord­ing to some wildlife groups.

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