Pangolins threatened with extinction

THE ZIMBABWEAN

Pangolins, also known as “scaly anteaters,” look like a prehistoric animal. They are nocturnal and highly secretive in nature. They livepredominantly on a diet of ants and termites, for which they have a voracious appetite, locating nests using their highly developed sense of smell and extricating the insects with an extraordinarily long sticky tongue.

Aside from being a very unique, insectivorous creature, they provide earth with all-natural pest control and are fantastic tenders of the soil through their digging. One adult pangolin can consume more than 70 million insects annually!

Poaching for illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss have made these incredible creatures one of the most endangered in the world. In Africa, Pangolins are poached mainly for their body parts which are used in various traditions, rituals and especially in ‘muti’, traditional medicine.

In East and South East Asia, predominantly China and Vietnam, they are also highly sought after for medicinal purposes.

Recently, acting on a tip-off, authorities arrested three men in Bulawayo and retrieved a frightened pangolin from the boot of their car. They were charged and sentenced for being in possess of a pangolin, which they apparently intended to use in superstitious rites to improve their mining business. They admitted guilt and were fined of $300 or six months in prison.

After a similar case only months ago, the need for stiffer penalties for pangolin poachers has become apparent. A conservation group, TikkiHywood Trust, has been lobbying government to increase fines for pangolin crimes.“At long last we have managed to persuade National Parks to increase the poaching fine for pangolins from the current $500 to $5000,”reports Lisa Hywood.

Environment Africa has collaborated on conservation issues with TikkiHywood over many years with one of their current joint projects being WEPU, Wildlife Environment Protection Units. – www.environmentafrica.org

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