|Chinese pangolin range|
The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is a pangolin found in northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, northern Indochina, through most of Taiwan, and southern China (including the islands of Hainan). The Chinese pangolin is one of eight species of pangolins. All eight of these shy and secretive mammals are facing moderate to severe population scarcity in recent times. Asian pangolin species, especially the Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin, are the most endangered of all the pangolin species. The IUCN reports that the number of Chinese pangolins has declined greatly over the past 15 years. Despite being listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and being protected by CITES, poaching continues to be the main cause of their decline in numbers. Deforestation has also contributed to their depletion.
Appearance and behavior
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The Chinese pangolin has the appearance of a scaly anteater. Its head and body measure about 40–58 cm and its tail measures about 25–38 cm (9.8–15.0 in). A mature Chinese pangolin weighs from 2 to 7 kilograms (4.4 to 15.4 lb). It has 18 rows of overlapping scales accompanied by hair, a rare combination in mammals. It has a small, narrow mouth and a little, pointed head. Also its claws grow in as it grows older. The female gives birth to a single offspring at a time.
A newborn pangolin weighs about 93 g (3.3 oz), its length is about 45 cm (18 in). The Chinese pangolin reproduces in April and May when the weather warms. The young also have scales; however, they remain very soft for at least two days, then harden. Although the young pangolin can walk on its first day, the mother carries it on her back or tail. If the mother feels threatened, she immediately folds her baby onto her belly with the help of her tail. Male pangolins have been observed allowing the female and baby to share his burrow.
Chinese pangolins are rather secretive, nocturnal creatures. They move very slowly and are known for their nonaggressive behavior. Their hard scales work as a protective cover from predators, and when they feel threatened, they curl themselves into balls. For further defense, they can climb trees, although this is uncommon.
They mainly eat insects, particularly termites and ants. They dig into ant nests and termite mounds with their large fore claws and extract their prey with their long, sticky tongues.
In Vietnam, Chinese pangolins are considered a delicacy. They are hunted on a wide scale for human consumption. Factors such as habitat destruction and hunting constantly challenge their survival. Chinese pangolins are now on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, however, since the forests they inhabit are difficult to patrol, preventing people from hunting these animals is difficult.
The Chinese pangolin digs long burrows in the ground, which they use to sleep and hunt termites.
- Primary and secondary tropical forests
- Bamboo forests
- Limestone forests
- Broadleaf forests
- Coniferous forests
- Agricultural fields
Dietary needs and eating habits
A study done by the Chinese Journal of Applied and Environmental Biology identified the Chinese pangolin as a "susceptible species due to its food specialization and stenophagy (only eating several species of ants and termites)”. Due to the pangolin's very specific diet, it can become arduous to provide the appropriate food for them while they are being observed and maintained. Pangolins are typically held in zoos due to their abilities to feed and preserve the rare animals. However, since the 1970s, "pangolins are now almost unknown to visitors and are exhibited infrequently in zoos", and have "historically been difficult to maintain, with most captive animals dying within a short period after capture". When in their natural habitat, this species lives "on a diet of ants, termites, and various other invertebrates including bee larvae, flies, worms, earthworms, and crickets". After carefully creating new, more sustainable recipes in zoos, some of the ingredients used have included "egg, meat (ground beef, horse, canned feline diet), evaporated milk products, milk powder, fish protein, orchid leaves, commercial chows, psyllium seed, carrots, yeast, multivitamins, and insects (mixtures of silkworm larvae, earth, ants, termites, meal worms, or crickets)". A number of zoos that have kept pangolins under observation have found that the animals died most commonly after a few years, without breeding successfully. Researchers claim this outcome is correlated to the "poor acceptance of captive diets and digestive problems." The Chinese Pangolin is considered to be high risk in terms of extinction.
Poaching and trafficking
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 2002 prohibited selling pangolins across national borders. Although China has already passed laws to protect the pangolin, it might not be enough to save the species. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora reports that pangolins are the most trafficked and poached mammal. The Chinese pangolin is hunted for its meat, claws, and scales. Pangolin meat, which is considered a delicacy in parts of China and Vietnam, has been reported to sell for as high as US$200/kg. Pangolin scales and blood are in demand in Asia for their supposed medicinal qualities. Chinese pangolin scales are sold to treat a wide variety of ailments, from cancer to upset stomach to asthma. Other pangolin body parts are also used in traditional Chinese medicine. According to one survey composed in 2013, certain Nepalese natives believe pangolin scales are also good-luck charms. Each pangolin has about 500 g (18 oz) of scales which can be sold for roughly US$350 on the black market.
Though pangolins have been protected by legislation since the 1970s and 1980s, people still choose to hunt these endangered animals. After random inspections on 28 May 2014, at the Kwai Chung cargo port in Hong Kong, officials detained scales from nearly 8,000 pangolins. Just two weeks later, Hong Kong officials seized a second shipment that contained scales from about 5,000 pangolins.
The journal Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment estimated that the remains of about 10,000 pangolins are intercepted each year. Zhao-Min Zhou and Macdonald from Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment claim from their records that 220 living pangolins and the remains of 4,909 dead pangolins were seized in 43 law enforcement actions since 2010.
The Indonesian Forestry Ministry director of investigations and forest observation, Raffles Panjaitan, told the Jakarta Post that in October 2011, his agency had 587 cases of pangolin trafficking since 2006. The estimated value is US$4.3 million worth of pangolins on the illegal market.
In April 2013, a Philippine coast guard inspected a boat where they found 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) of pangolin meat. They also discovered 400 boxes containing thousands of frozen skinned pangolins and scaly anteaters from Indonesia. The Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa city in Palawan province sentenced the boat captain to 12 years in prison and each crew member received from six to 10 years. Each member of the crew was also fined $100,000.
In 2016, CITES moved the Chinese pangolin from its Appendix II, designating species not directly threatened with extinction but in need of protection to prevent exploitation, to Appendix I, reserved for species most directly threatened with extinction. The Appendix I listing prohibits commercial trade in wild-caught specimens. Many of the countries where the Chinese pangolin resides have already passed legislation to protect them. Below is a list of the different countries' legislation in order from oldest to newest laws:
- 1972 – India fully protected the Chinese Pangolin by classifying it as a Schedule I species under the Wildlife Protection Act.
- 1973 – Nepal made it a Schedule I protected animal under the National Parks and Wildlife Protection Act.
- 1976 – Hong Kong implemented the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance to protect this species and others that are endangered.
- 1989 – China classified the species as a State Category II protected animal with the Protection of Wildlife Act.
- 1990 – Taiwan added the entire Manis genus to be protected under the Wildlife Conservation Law, first passed in 1989.
- 1992 – China increased protection of the species using the Regulations on the Implementation of Protection of Terrestrial Wild Animals legislation. In the same year, Thailand classified the genus Manis as protected under the Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act B.E. 2535.
- 1994 – Myanmar enacted the Protection of Wildlife and Wild Plants and Conservation of Natural Areas law, which fully protected the species.
- 2000 – China established more defined terms for the punishment of crimes specifically involving pangolins.
- 2006 – China enacted the Regulations on Management of Import and Export of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to meet CITES guidelines. Additionally, Hong Kong increased its protection of the Chinese pangolin with the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants law. In 2006, Vietnam classified it as a fully protected species in group IIB of Decree 32 in the Management of Endangered, Precious, and Rare Species of Wild Plants and Animals.
- 2007 – China intensified its regulations for the use of pangolins in traditional medicines by terminating pangolin hunting licenses, and requiring current stockpiles of pangolin scales to be registered and subject to trade only through designated buyers, like hospitals. Meanwhile, Laos declared the species as near extinction, but of high importance in the prohibition category of the Wildlife and Aquatic Law.
- 2012 – Bangladesh granted protection of the Chinese pangolin through the Wildlife Conservation and Security Act.
China has passed much more legislation for pangolin protection than other countries, because the species' population has drastically declined in China over the last few decades. This is the direct result of extreme poaching for pangolin scales and meat.
On May 2016, a poll representing 1,892 Chinese adults revealed that more than 80% of the Chinese public want pangolins to be protected. The survey was led by Aita Foundation and Humane Society International.
The IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group made a proposal in July 2014 to increase awareness, funding, and research for pangolin conservation. Some of the plan's highlights include making protocols to monitor pangolin populations, establishing a consumption index of pangolin products, using DNA analysis to determine variation between and within species, and identifying species strongholds to determine best allocation of resources. Furthermore, the conservation plan aims to increase patrol-based monitoring around stronghold populations, increase awareness and education about the severity of the problem, and, most importantly, implement a demand reduction strategy for pangolin meat and scales.
Another alternative to legislation, proposed by IUCN, includes offering positive incentives, like monetary payments or control over land's resources, to local communities for their involvement in conservation efforts. Other researchers have proposed the importance of finding biological substitutes for endangered species used in traditional medicines. DNA barcoding and analysis could be used to determine what common species are genetically similar enough and produce similar effects as the Chinese pangolin scales. To crack down on poaching, the barcoding technique could also be used for accurate detection of species products being imported and exported.
The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), a non-profit and non-governmental organization is particularly proactive in doing research and collecting field data for the conservation of Chinese pangolins. Since July 2017, the Beijing-based NGO has established three Chinese pangolin Community Conservation Areas in Hunan, Guangxi and Jiangxi provinces.
In late August 2017, CBCGDF confiscated 33 Chinese pangolins from Chinese poachers and released them to the Guangxi Wildlife Rescue Centre. Suggestions from the foundation such as the improvement of their rescue regulations and procedures; their immediate release to the wild after full recovery; keeping information open to the public; revising the endangered species conservation laws and regulations in Guangxi, followed the release. However, only 14 Chinese pangolins survived. At the World Pangolin Day 2017, CBCGDF called for deletion of pangolin scales from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Book. CBCGDF also called for the burning of confiscated pangolin scales illegally trafficked to China. Moreover, in July 2018, a conference organised by CBCGDF hosted the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). During that conference, CBCGDF openly shared recent and precious data on Chinese pangolins with GBIF.
The Chinese pangolin is probably "The Critter", one of the pets of the Raven FACs at their secret base in Long Tieng during the covert war in Laos. It was described as a foot-long "prehistoric" beast, covered in armor plating with a long tail and a pointed nose, a "cross between a sloth and an armadillo", by the US pilots.
After its accidental death, the Critter's body was preserved in a one-gallon jar filled with alcohol. A picture taken of the preserved animal was sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, as well as to the natural history department of La Sorbonne in Paris, but no positive reply was forthcoming. For a long time, nobody knew what kind of animal it was until one of the pilots stationed in Laos happened to see the animal on a Laotian postage stamp, part of a stamp series on indigenous animals from Laos, under the name "Panis Auritas".
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- Carrington, Damian (28 September 2016). "Pangolins thrown a lifeline at global wildlife summit with total trade ban". Theguardian.com.
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- Challender, Dan. "Positive Incentives for Conserving Pangolins in Asia and the Challenges to Be Overcome." SULiNews 7 (Dec. 2013): n. pag. IUCN. Web.
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Data related to Manis pentadactyla at Wikispecies
- EDGE of Existence (Chinese pangolin) – Saving the World's most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species
- IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group – Chinese pangolin
- ADW entry
- Jung-Tai Chao. General Status of Formosan Pangolin Manis pentadactyla pentadactyla
- Cryptozoology – The Critter
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