The consumption of exotic animal meat is translating into super viruses which are posing a real threat to humanity. In order to control the spread of these viruses, we need to get a handle of the illegal trading of these threatened animals.
With the recent outbreak of the Wuhan Virus in china, medical scientists and researchers are scrambling to find the link which may be responsible for passing the virus on to humans. Although pangolins don’t normally pose any threat to humans, the consumption of pangolin meat comes with a host of risks. Researchers at the South China Agricultural University have said that pangolins are a potential immediate host and the consumption of pangolin meat could be responsible for the outbreak of the Wuhan Virus. China has a huge live animal trade, and many exotic animals are bought and sold live under horrible conditions, with pangolins only one example on a long list of others.
Out of the 8 known pangolin species, 4 are found in Africa, and one brave African is dedicating his life to helping this species. Charles Emogor of Nigeria is extremely passionate about pangolins, especially the white-bellied pangolin. The white-bellied pangolin has now been reclassified from vulnerable to endangered. Emogor laments that he has never seen a pangolin in the wild even during his 2-year field research in the forest in Nigeria. He says has only ever seen them strung up for sale in local markets, part of the reason he has embarked on the first ever pangolin research in the Cross-River Rainforest in Nigeria.
Emogor says that pangolins are extremely important to ecology. They are insect-feeders and therefore keep the termite and ant populations in check. Due to their scaly armour and instinct to roll up into a tight ball when under threat, pangolins don’t really have any natural predators. The only threat they face comes from humans.
As most people now understand, the complete decimation of any species has massive ramifications for all living beings on this planet. As much as we may not realise the value of the pangolin, they have their place in our ecosystem and are not for human consumption. Several African countries are beginning to wake up to this fact, and both Cameroon and South Africa have established conservation groups primarily focused on saving the pangolin.
Pangolin’s are an intriguing and elusive species, and not only is their territory is under increasing pressure due to human activity, they are also the world’s most trafficked animal.
Pangolins have come under the spotlight in recent times, and not for happy reasons- in fact, it is because they are now the endangered species list and it’s due to humans. These strange looking creatures are pretty harmless, if you’ve not seen one (which is likely the case) they are somewhere between an ant-eater and an armadillo; a long snout for forage feeding, and long telescopic-type tail and a body literally covered by scales which look like a blend of tortoise shell and knight’s armour. If anything, their appearance is certainly intriguing. But it’s not their appearance which makes them hot property, but rather that they’re a valuable commodity to many Asian countries.
Pangolins are literally being eaten into extinction. It is estimated, that more than a million pangolins have been taken from the wild in the last 10 years; that’s one hundred thousand pangolins every year. If that number doesn’t make you uncomfortable then read on. First of all, it is illegal to trade in pangolins, even in Asia, yet this is the very region where the black market for exotic animals is thriving. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy and is highly sought-after despite the ban on illegal trading. Pangolins are not only desired for their meat however, pangolin scales are used to treat a variety of ailments in Chinese medicine.
Much like rhino horn, the practice of trading pangolins is not only cruel but also unsustainable. Also, like rhino horn, there is no evidence that pangolin scales are beneficial for treating medical issues. Asian pangolin species have been decimated by Asia’s voracious appetite for this mammal, and now illegal traders are crossing over into Africa to feed the growing need. China and Vietnam are the two countries responsible for much of the trading, and due to this, eight of the known pangolin species are listed as nearing extinction.