A year ago the pangolin made headlines in the world’s media. Not because of its extinction, but because it could have caused ours. The first studies carried out in Wuhan to discover the origin of the transmission of the Sars-CoV-2 strain, aimed directly at this animal. The investigations revealed that might have been the carrier of the virus, serving as a link between a bat and the first patient COVID-19 human.
The latest advances made between January and February 2021 by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Wuhan, do not confirm that the pangolin is the culprit of this transmission, although they do corroborate that the origin of this pandemic is an animal unique animal in danger of extinction
In African and Asian territories lives one of the most peculiar species on Earth. Completely harmless and with a peculiar appearance, the pangolin passes through life peacefully, feeding on ants and termites and thus contributing, in a natural way, to the reduction of pests and the control of insects in the habitats in which it lives. It, therefore, fulfills a great function in the wild.
One of its rarities is the shape and constitution of its long and small body. It is covered with hard scales, a peculiarity that is observed in very few living beings and no other mammal, except yours. This makes it a unique animal and, unfortunately for its species, a being tremendously coveted by humans.
Its massive hunting has brought it to the brink of extinction. In countries like China, their situation is especially critical, since the remaining live specimens can hardly be counted. In 2016, the action was taken on the matter at the international level, to stop the trade and trafficking of the pangolin. Through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 182 countries signed a ban on trafficking in any of the eight species (four Asian and four African) that exist in the world. World Pangolin Day
At the same time, the UN established a World Pangolin Day, on the third Saturday of February, whose celebration began the following year, in 2017. It is celebrated since the international community is aware of the great danger of disappearance that this species runs and of the great pressure from illegal trafficking, explains Gemma Rodríguez, head of endangered species at WWF Spain.
In 2019, China went one step further and withdrew from social security drugs containing any ingredient from pangolin. A year later, in the summer of 2020, the Asian country raised the protection of this species to the highest level and tightened the penalties for all companies that sold these products. However, according to Gemma Rodríguez and WWF Spain, reality has shown us that its sale is much more widespread and that it is usually found in markets and restaurants in China .”The demand does not seem to have ceased, although police and customs controls have been increased against this black market. Their dire situation in Asia has led pangolin traffickers to Africa, whose specimens are now the focus of poaching.
Everything is wanted from the pangolin, even though none of the beliefs that revolve around its consumption have been proven. According to traditional Chinese medicine, its scales are healing, almost magical, being able to cure some cancers, reduce asthma, treat bodily ailments, depression, malaria, blindness, and even increase milk production in lactating women. His blood is also a victim of human consumption. It is attributed, for example, the property of reducing erectile dysfunction. Finally, their meat is consumed as a luxury food.
Gemma Rodriguez, from WWF Spain, clarifies that however, its scales are simply composed of keratin, like the nails or human hair, so the beliefs about the properties of the pangolin are based purely on superstition. After a year of notoriety and stigmatization, the pangolin may be in luck. Environmental organizations trust that this stigmatization can save the species from extinction, we hope that the interest in this species will recede and its commercial interest will diminish concludes Gemma Rodriguez.