Pangolins are having a bit of a moment right now. The internet might know them best as the animal that looks like it’s about to ask you to prom. But they have also come under suspicion of transferring COVID-19 to humans. That theory was debunked, but pangolin trade is still under scrutiny. There has never been a better time to learn about the world’s cutest–and most trafficked–animal.
So what exactly is a pangolin? Pangolins are the only mammals that are completely covered in scales. When they are threatened, they roll into balls like armadillos. Also like armadillos, they have long tongues for eating insects. There are eight species of pangolin, four from Africa and four from Asia. They are all on the endangered species list, with three species critically endangered.
Pangolins are endangered because of high levels of poaching. Their scales are used in traditional Asian medicines. Their meat is also a delicacy in China and Vietnam. In 2016, the International Treaty on Wildlife Trade outlawed the trade of pangolins. Yet that did not stop the booming black market business. In early April of this year, six tons of pangolin scales were confiscated in Malaysia.
WildAid has partnered with cultural ambassadors to promote the end of pangolin sales. When I studied abroad in China in 2018, the following ad was playing on the subway trains constantly. It shows Jackie Chan teaching pangolins kung fu!
I’ve even seen this ad in the Chicago O’Hare airport! Chinese actress Angelababy’s WildAid video has been seen over 25 million times. The videos urge people to not buy pangolin meat, decreasing demand. If you want to help, you can donate to organizations like WildAid or Save Pangolins. You can also spread the word!
I think we can all agree pangolins deserve to be the world’s next superstar animal obsession. If a pangolin asked you to prom, would you say yes? Comment below!