Monday, 10 November 2014

Pangolin 'Medicine' Trade Leading to Rapid Extinction

By Chris Newman, University of Oxford; David Macdonald, University of Oxford, and Youbing Zhou, Chinese Academy of Sciences | November 09, 2014 06:15pm ET

This article was originally published on The Conversation. The publication contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Few people are familiar with. It is a shy creature, about as big as a medium-sized dog, and its diet consists of ants and termites. Most distinctively, it has armoured plates and will curl into a ball to resist predators. The eight different species of pangolin live across most of Africa, India, southern China and Southeast Asia.

Despite their recognition as an endangered species and the supposed protection that brings, pangolin are now the most trafficked wild mammal species in the world. Their scales have been used for millennia in Asian medicine. When roasted, they are alleged to detoxify and drain pus, relieve palsy, and stimulate lactation. The animals are either traded alive (involving appalling cruelty) or killed and their scales removed to meet culinary and medicinal demand in East and Southeast Asia.

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