Activists try to protect endangered pangolins
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.
Pangolins are considered to be one of the most trafficked animals in the world, according to some wildlife groups.