Extinction threat to the pangolin

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Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animals. From 17 January, four mounted specimens will go on display in the atrium at World Museum to highlight the African pangolins’ tragic step closer to extinction.

Pangolin scales are used in traditional East Asian medicines as purported cures for a variety of health problems including skin conditions and cancer. The scales are actually similar to human fingernails, being formed of keratin, and their use as medicine has no scientific basis. Pangolin meat is eaten as a luxury dish in high end restaurants in China and Vietnam. Pangolins are also eaten as bushmeat in Africa, but following the decline in Asian pangolins, African species are increasingly being trafficked to Asia. Between 2015 and 2018, scales from 200,000 African pangolins were seized either in Africa bound for export, or in transit to Asian markets.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently reassessed the conservation Red List status of all eight species of pangolins. The four Asian pangolins — Indian pangolinChinese pangolinSunda pangolin, and Philippine pangolin — were judged to be critically endangered. Two African species – Ground pangolin and Black-bellied pangolin – remained as vulnerable, while the other African species – Giant pangolin and White-bellied pangolin – were raised from vulnerable to endangered.

Endangered pangolins according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature