Article by Shreya Dasgupta.
Martial arts superstar Jackie Chan has joined the fight to stop the poaching of the world’s most trafficked mammal — the pangolin or scaly anteater.
In a video entitled “Kung Fu Pangolin” released by conservation organizations WildAid and The Nature Conservancy, Jackie Chan tries to teach pangolins kung fu to protect themselves from poachers and urges people to never buy pangolin meat or scale. “When the buying stops, the killing can too,” he says.
Thousands of pangolins are illegally hunted every year for their meat and scales. In fact, in the past decade, more than one million of these armor-clad mammals were trafficked, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, mostly to meet the demands of China and Vietnam.
Pangolin scales, which are made of keratin (just like human fingernails and rhino horns), are popular in traditional Chinese medicine. Traders (incorrectly) claim that the scales can treat asthma, arthritis and rheumatism and promote menstruation and lactation, but none of these claims have ever been proven. Pangolin meat is also considered a delicacy in Vietnam and China.
“It’s crazy in this day and age that people are still eating these wild animals and threatening them with extinction,” Chan said in a statement. “I hope we can persuade people that it’s the wrong thing to do.”
Tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis) in central Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Valerius Tygart (Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
The ongoing illegal wildlife trade threatens the survival of all eight species of pangolins — four each found in Africa and Asia.The Asian pangolins — Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), and Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) — are listed as either endangered or critically endangered under the IUCN Red List. And the four African pangolin species — Cape or Temminck’s Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), White-bellied or Tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), Giant Ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), Black-bellied or Long-tailed pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) — are all listed as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List.
Last year, all eight species of pangolin received the highest level of protection available under international law. They were all listed under the Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans their global commercial trade.
However, the market value of these scaly anteaters remain high in China and Vietnam and poachers continue to hunt them in large numbers.Last month, for example, Malaysian authorities uncovered more than 8 tonnes of pangolin scales, all packed in gunny bags. The scales are estimated to have been harvested from at least 16,000 pangolins. Then, in May, Hong Kong officials found more than seven tonnes of pangolin scales in a shipping container that had arrived from Africa.
On Wednesday, August 30, customs officials in Thailand seized 136 live pangolins, and 450 kilograms (~992 pounds) of pangolin scales. The consignment, which had come from Malaysia, was possibly being smuggled to China or Vietnam.
The video “Kung Fu Pangolin”, and accompanying billboards will be distributed widely in China and Vietnam, WildAid said.
“The priority for pangolin conservation is reducing consumer demand and improving enforcement,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights in the statement. “Jackie reaches a vast audience across Asia and there are clear signs these campaigns have had an impact and attitudes are changing. Shark fin imports to China went down 81% in three years. Ivory seizures there were down 80% last year, and ivory and rhino horn prices have fallen by more than 50%.”
Jackie Chan calls for an end to consuming pangolins. Photo courtesy of WildAid.