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Four facts about the world’s most trafficked mammal: the pangolin

  • Cape pangolin © Photoshot License Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

    Cape pangolin © Photoshot License Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

  • Pangolin © Wildlife Alliance

    Pangolin © Wildlife Alliance

  • A pangolin curled up © Wildlife Alliance

    A pangolin curled up © Wildlife Alliance

  • A Palawan pangolin curled up © Global Wildlife Conservation

    A Palawan pangolin curled up © Global Wildlife Conservation

Okay, step away from the Google Doodle pangolin game for one minute, we’ve managed to grab four fabulous minutes of Q&A for you with a pangolin expert – Dr Dan Challender, Programme Officer in the Global Species Programme at the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to tell us some ‘need to know’ facts about pangolins and their plight.

What are the main threats to pangolins?

The main threat to pangolins is over-exploitation, including poaching of the animals for their scales, meat, and other parts for trafficking to Asian markets such as China and Vietnam, and domestic (i.e. local) use of their scales and meat.

What can be done to help better conserve pangolins?

There are many things that need to be done to conserve pangolins. Laws and regulations need to be implemented properly in countries where pangolins occur, there needs to be better understanding of demand for illegal pangolin products in order to change consumer behaviour to sustainable preferences, and more research needs to be done to determine where healthy pangolin populations occur in order to protect them. The IUCN Species Survival Commission Pangolin Specialist Group launched an action plan in 2014, ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation’, detailing what needs to be done.

Where is the best place to see pangolins in the wild?

They are increasingly rare in many parts of Asia, and probably Africa as well. There are some place in West and Central Africa where you’ll likely see them if you visit, as well as Southern Africa – they would be my best bets.

Is there anything that we in the UK can do to help pangolins?

  • Donate to conservation organisations to support pangolin conservation in all its forms
  • Spread the word about pangolins at home and abroad to raise awareness of, and support for, pangolin conservation
  • Become a pangolin conservationist. There is much to do to secure the conservation of pangolins – through becoming a conservation scientist you could really help.

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  • Ben Leo Hollis

    I love Pangolins!!! I saw my first ever in Natural History museum a month ago and i hope they can overcome trafficking- is there any other major threats apart from poaching?

    • Duncan Mizen

      Hi Ben, thanks for your message and sorry it’s taken a while to respond to you. I’ve asked one of our species experts, Niki Rust (a blogger on this site too), to answer your query. Here’s her response:

      The most pressing issue for pangolins right now is poaching, which must be immediately addressed to ensure the future survival of all 8 pangolin species. But there are other conservation concerns too, like loss of habitat. However, one of the problems is that we know so little about pangolins so there is also an urgent need to undertake ecological research of the species in order that we can better protect them. According to the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group – the experts at the forefront of pangolin conservation – low levels of awareness, insufficient political will, and little investment in pangolin conservation to date – makes addressing these threats all the more challenging.

      We hope that helps

      many thanks for reading the blog and keep doing so! 🙂

      Blog manager, WWF