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Why Are Pangolins Poached?

Why are pangolins poached? IAPF is leading the fight against pangolin poaching and trafficking in Africa. Learn more here about our conservation efforts.

April 6, 2021

Why Are Pangolins Poached?

A pangolin is a rare mammal that many humans have never seen in person. At first sight, this scaly creature may look like a reptile, but it is the only mammal fully covered in scales. There are eight species of pangolins living throughout Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, four of them are critically endangered and the remainder are currently vulnerable.

A major issue facing the pangolin population is poaching. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in many parts of Asia, and they are being trafficked in Africa now more than ever. Pangolin scales have long been used in traditional Asian medicine, and the meat is considered a delicacy in Vietnam, China and numerous other countries. The illegal poaching and trade of pangolins is growing, despite laws protecting these rare creatures on both continents.

Endangered and Interesting Creatures

Pangolins are some of the most unique mammals in the world. Their bodies are covered in scales, which are made of keratin, similar to fingernails. It is expected that they’ve been on Earth for roughly 80 million years. They can be found in 51 countries across Asia and Africa. Pangolins can live in a variety of habitats — ranging from tropical forests to thick brush, grasslands and more.

Pangolins may look intimidating with their scales and small Tyrannosaurus rex front arms, but they’re helpful to the habitats in which they live. They use their long, anteater-like snouts to eat roughly 20,000 ants per day and 73 million per year. Pangolins offer a natural form of pest control. Unfortunately, two species of pangolins could become extinct within 10 years if humans continue on this current path of poaching and trafficking. This brings about the question, “What are pangolins poached for?”

Why Are Pangolins Poached?

More than 1 million pangolins have been poached in the last 10 years. Their scales, fetuses and blood are said to have “magical” medicinal properties. However, no evidence has shown that pangolin scales or other parts of the body offer health benefits. China, Vietnam and several other countries use pangolin scales for traditional medicine and consume the meat as a delicacy. In 2019, 123 tons of pangolin scales were confiscated by Chinese customs.

Pangolins are excellent at hiding, so much so that hunters smoke them out of trees and other habitats with fires. Poachers will also pull pangolins from trees and club them with machetes until they are unconscious. Many pangolins are boiled alive while still bleeding, then placed in bags for transport.

The Harms of Pangolin Poaching

One of the most obvious harms of pangolins being poached is that future generations will not have an opportunity to view these animals in the wild. However, pangolins benefit the environment in numerous other ways. These scaly mammals are known as “guardians of the forest,” as they protect surrounding habitats from destruction due to insects such as termites. They help maintain a balanced ecosystem, which is essential to the survival of other plants and animals throughout Asia, Africa and beyond.

Help Stop Pangolin Poaching

Every person can help prevent pangolin poaching by taking simple actions:

  • Refrain from purchasing or using illegal wildlife products, such as traditional medicines from pangolin scales
  • Share information about pangolin vulnerability and pangolin poaching facts with your friends, family and others via social media and other outlets
  • Report illegal pangolin products when you see them
  • Encourage U.S. politicians to take action toward stopping pangolin poaching and trafficking
  • Create a fundraising event to help fight pangolin poaching and trafficking
  • Donate to conservation programs such as the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF)

What IAPF Is Doing?

IAPF is constantly working to fight pangolin poaching and trafficking. Since 2009, IAPF has been a leader in solutions for poaching and other conservation efforts. This organization helps empower indigenous African communities to conserve wildlife and habitats. This is done through providing local men and women with the skills they need to work as rangers and more.

The following are several anti-poaching programs provided by IAPF:

  • Akashinga: Akashinga is the first all-women anti-poaching unit in Africa. These women are protecting animals by arresting poachers without using violence. Through the Akashinga program, local women earn pay and learn life skills to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Poaching has been eliminated by more than 80% in areas where IAPF operates.
  • LEAD Ranger: The LEAD Ranger program by IAPF provides the training local individuals need to become effective wildlife crime enforcers. Rangers are based in the habitats they serve to protect. IAPF has now trained more than 44 instructors who oversee 1,100 rangers and protect 14 million acres of wildlife in Africa.

IAPF conservation programs serve to prevent poaching and care for wildlife as well as empower indigenous men, women and their families.

  • The Film: National Geographic recently released a film in conjunction with IAPF titled “Akashinga: The Brave Ones.” This film highlights African species facing extinction and informs the public about the Akashinga anti-poaching program.

The Akashinga approach to protecting African wildlife helps indigenous communities understand the economic benefits of preserving the animals that call these areas of Africa home. The goal is to eliminate poaching without needing to fire a single shot. This film is informative and life-changing — celebrating courage, conservation and unique ideas that lead to radical change.

Donate and Make a Difference

Watching this film could provide the encouragement you need to begin your conservation efforts — no matter where you’re located. You can help right now by donating one time or creating recurring monthly donations to IAPF.

IAPF makes donating easy and offers suggestions for ways you can contribute to the cause:

  • Give from an IRA (if you’re 70.5 years old or older)
  • Become a corporate partner with IAPF
  • Leave a gift to IAPF in your will
  • Transfer appreciated stock to IAPF and enjoy a tax advantage
  • Create a fundraiser for IAPF
  • Shop online via eBay or AmazonSmile and select IAPF as your favorite charity

Your fight against pangolin poaching can begin right now.