The 10th Annual World Pangolin Day is observed on 20 February 2021. Every year, the third Saturday in February is promoted as World Pangolin Day, the observation is attributed to Annamiticus (a non-profit organisation working on the conservation of wildlife). World Pangolin Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about these unique mammals – and their plight. The scale of pangolin trafficking is alarming, experts indicate that they account for ~20% of the illegal wildlife trade. No wonder that Pangolin numbers are rapidly declining in Asia and Africa. Observation of days like these is an opportunity to celebrate those working relentlessly to stop the poaching and trafficking of endangered animals like Pangolin.
The year passed by has brought Pangolin to the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Researchers reported the possible animal source of the virus to Pangolin. The genetic analysis is showing a 99% match between COVID-19 and a virus that pangolins carry. The pandemic did bring to notice these animals’ plight and, more importantly, taught a lesson about humans’ need to maintain a respectable distance from wildlife and wild spaces.
Listed as critically endangered Pangolins are highly sought after even though the unproven belief that their scales have medicinal qualities. Pangolins have all but disappeared from most parts of the world. All eight species of pangolins are in danger with the two most-endangered pangolin species that may go extinct within only ten years.
Pangolins are the only known mammals with protective scales covering their skin this feature. They are nocturnal, and their diet consists of mainly ants and termites, which they capture using their long tongues. Pangolins are shy, solitary and mind their own business and keep to themselves. By and large solitary animals, meeting only to mate. They raise the offspring for about two years. They do not have any vocal cords and are therefore unable to vocalise with each other or give off an alarm/distress call when threatened. The Pangolin curls up into a tight ball with the exposed scales deterring even the apex predators like lions. Unfortunately, however, pangolins’ defence mechanism is the cause of their demise in humans’ hands (the most dangerous predator of all).
Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, resemble anteaters and armadillos, their physical resemblance is due to the same diet consists of mainly ants and termites, and not because these animals are related. Pangolins mostly eat various species of ants and termites, sometimes supplementing their diet with other insects. Pangolin plays a vital role in the ecosystem by improving soil quality and providing natural pest control. Next time you need pest control, your homes think of inviting a Pangolin. Many attempts made to breed pangolins in captivity. Still, due to their reliance on wide-ranging habitats and very particular diets, these attempts are often unsuccessful. The idea of farming pangolins to reduce the number being illegally trafficked is being explored with little success.
If there is one thing we have learned over the past year, our actions have consequences! The global pandemic has taught us that the way we treat animals has profound repercussions. We need to be mindful of our actions every day and think about what we do, what we eat and what we purchase.
Toons: Anusha and Reema Jaiswal
Logs: Sai Baba