Wildlife

Rare Pangolins May Be Eaten to Extinction

They’ve been described as walking artichokes and the most trafficked mammals in the world. Now, conservationists warn that pangolins, or scaly anteaters, could be eaten out of existence if illegal hunting and poaching continue . In the latest update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, all eight pangolin species were listed as “critically endangered,” “endangered” or “vulnerable.” Today (July 29), a group of scientists and conservationists tasked with studying pangolins for the IUCN issued an action plan outlining steps that should be taken to save the armoured, insect-eating creatures.

“In the 21st century, we really should not be eating species to extinction — there is simply no excuse for allowing this illegal trade to continue,” Jonathan Baillie, co-chair of the pangolin specialist group for the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and conservation programs director at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.

Pangolins, native to Asia and Africa, are the world’s only mammals with true scales made of keratin. Despite international trade bans, pangolin meat and scales still fetch high prices on the black market. Demand is especially high in China and Vietnam, where pangolin parts are used in medicine and served as a culinary delicacy.

Last August, more than six tons of live pangolins were seized as they headed from Indonesia to Vietnam in a shipping container labeled as frozen fish, fins and fish bones. In April 2013, a Chinese fishing vessel was found carrying as many as 2,000 of the toothless creatures, after the vessel ran aground in the protected Tubbataha Reefs off the coast of the Philippines, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

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