Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Three Pangolin Species Closer to Extinction

Animals
A ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) in Zimbabawe. Pangolins are one of the world's most endangered species. Adrian Steirn / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The pangolin's future looks gloomy, according to the latest update by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which assesses the conservation status of species.

Of the eight known species of the pangolin, one of the world's most trafficked mammals, two African species, the while-bellied (Phataginus tricuspis) and the giant ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), have been moved from "vulnerable" to "endangered" on the IUCN Red List. One Asian species, the Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), has been uplisted from "endangered" to "critically endangered." No species improved in status in the assessment.


Much of the decline in the armor-clad mammals can be attributed to the loss of their habitat and large-scale poaching for the animals' scales and meat, experts say.

"It is extremely disheartening but unsurprising that three additional pangolin species are now formally classified as endangered and critically endangered," Audrey Delsink, Africa wildlife director of Humane Society International, said in a statement.

Pangolin scales, largely made of keratin just like human fingernails, are sought after in Asian markets, mainly China and Vietnam, where people erroneously believe the scales have medicinal properties, such as promoting menstruation and lactation and in treating rheumatism and arthritis.

The shy mammals are also hunted for bushmeat in Africa, although in China, pangolin meat is consumed both as a luxury food item and for its purported curative properties. In 2016, countries voted to list all eight species of pangolin on CITES Appendix I, banning commercial trade in the animals. Yet, widespread trafficking of their body parts continues.

Despite the rampant poaching, researchers know little about pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, because they eat ants and termites. The animals are nocturnal and difficult to survey, and there isn't a whole lot of quantitative information about their population status in the wild. What conservationists do know, however, is that both the live animal and its scales, meat, and other body parts keep appearing in illegal wildlife seizures around the world. Between 2000 and 2019, for instance, at least 850,000 pangolins were trafficked internationally, a recent study found.

Every species of pangolin is threatened with extinction, and their status is only getting worse. Three of the four Asian pangolins — the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), and Philippine pangolin — are critically endangered, while the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

All four African species — the Cape or Temminck's ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), white-bellied or tree pangolin, giant ground pangolin and black-bellied or long-tailed pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) — were previously listed as vulnerable. The latest IUCN update moves two of these species to a higher threat category.

The pangolins' decline comes from both the widespread loss of their forest habitat and increased targeting by poachers, following the decline in Asian pangolin numbers, the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group noted in the species' assessments.

"Pangolins continue to get hammered by poaching and trade, and extinction is on the horizon for these adorably odd creatures," Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

Adam Peyman, wildlife programs and operations manager for Humane Society International, added, "The new Red List assessments illustrate the urgent need for action to stop these charming animals from slipping into extinction … The trafficking network is global, and so must our response be to save the pangolin."



Reposted with permission from Mongabay.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A coke storage area is seen as steam rises from the quench towers at the US Steel Clairton Works on Jan. 21, 2020, in Clairton, Pennsylvania. White plumes of smoke billow above western Pennsylvania's rolling hills as scorching ovens bake coal, which rolls in by the trainload along the Monongahela River. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's claim that the U.S. has the cleanest air and water in the world has been widely refuted by statistics showing harmful levels of pollution. Now, a new biannual ranking released by researchers at Yale and Columbia finds that the U.S. is nowhere near the top in environmental performance, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Students walk by a sign reading "Climate Change" at the Doctor Tolosa Latour public school in Madrid, Spain on Sept. 9, 2014. In the U.S., New Jersey will be the first state to make the climate crisis part of its curriculum for all K-12 students. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP via Getty Images

New Jersey has invested in the future health of the planet by making sure the next generation of adults knows how human activity has had a deleterious effect on the planet. The state will be the first in the nation to make the climate crisis as part of its curriculum for all students, from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade, as NorthJersey.com reported.

Read More Show Less
Some reservations are reporting infection rates many times higher than those observed in the general U.S. population. grandriver / Getty Images

By Lindsey Schneider, Joshua Sbicca and Stephanie Malin

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is novel, but pandemic threats to indigenous peoples are anything but new. Diseases like measles, smallpox and the Spanish flu have decimated Native American communities ever since the arrival of the first European colonizers.

Read More Show Less
As we continue to grapple with the issues of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, there exists an opportunity to address these existential threats with new innovations. Sawitree Pamee / EyeEm

By Kaya Bulbul

The ocean is our lifeline - we rely on it for the food we eat, the air we breathe, as well as for millions for jobs worldwide.

As we continue to grapple with the issues of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, there exists an opportunity to address these existential threats with new innovations, many of which unidentified or insufficiently supported.

Read More Show Less
The coronavirus adds a new wrinkle to the debate over the practice of eminent domain as companies continue to work through the pandemic, vexing landowners. Patrick J. Endres / Getty Images

By Jeremy Deaton

Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan is cutting a 400-mile line across the middle of Texas, digging up vast swaths of private land for its planned Permian Highway Pipeline. The project is ceaseless, continuing through the coronavirus pandemic. Landowner Heath Frantzen said that dozens of workers have showed up to his ranch in Fredericksburg, even as public health officials urged people to stay at home.

Read More Show Less
Weeds dying in a soybean field impacted by dicamba spraying. JJ Gouin / iStock / Getty Images

A federal court overturned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of dicamba Wednesday, meaning the controversial herbicide can no longer be sprayed in the U.S.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Smoke rises from a cement factory in Castleton in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, England. john finney photography / Moment / Getty Images

Human activity has pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide to higher levels today than they have been at any other point in the last 23-million-years, potentially posing unprecedented disruptions in ecosystems across the planet, new research suggests.

Read More Show Less