Pangolin Trafficking

Pangolins have been around for millions of years, but why are they the most trafficked animal? What makes this animal so special?

A ground pangolin, one of several species of the animal.

Save Pangolins

A ground pangolin, one of several species of the animal.

Adam Khogyani, Columnist

The most trafficked animal in the world is one that many people have never even heard of. It’s called the pangolin. Although these creatures are strange-looking, Fauna-Flora states that they’re very valuable. They sell for high prices on the black market in Asian nations like China and Vietnam, where they are prized for their scales. Not only that, but they are a delicacy in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam.

Poachers are able to sell pangolins for thousands of dollars, and restaurants can sell pangolin dishes for hundreds, making them of great value. Fauna and Flora International (FFI) has been working on protecting the Sunda pangolin, one of the eight pangolin species. Save Pangolins, a pangolin support organization, explains how all eight pangolin species are at serious risk. The list below shows all the species of pangolins, where they are, and their status. 

Asian Pangolins:

  • Chinese pangolin – critically endangered
  • Sunda pangolin – critically endangered
  • Palawan pangolin – critically endangered
  • Indian pangolin – endangered

African pangolins:

  • White-bellied pangolin – endangered
  • Giant pangolin – endangered
  • Ground pangolin – vulnerable
  • Black-bellied pangolin – vulnerable

According to CBS, pangolins are nocturnal, making them hard to study. As a result, very little is researched about the pangolin, although it’s theorized they could play an important role with COVID-19 because they have been known to spread the disease without picking up the symptoms. Pangolins could be used for medical research due to the fact that they are not vulnerable to many diseases that are dangerous to humans. 

Anti-poaching programs try to protect the pangolin from being bought and sold illegally. Conservationists, such as Ray Jansen, often work as undercover buyers with the police and help track down the illegal sellers. Sadly, lots of pangolins who are rescued after being caught do not survive due to trauma.

The pangolin’s use could be much more than being illegally sold and eaten for a high price. Hopefully, conservation efforts will help the population to grow, and the illegal selling will end. But right now, the future of the pangolin is uncertain, as populations continue to shrink.