Pangolin Rescue 穿山甲

This morning, we found this poor little thing, clutching the pipe trying not to drown. Don’t know how long it’s been in the water. We have a reservoir storing water for irrigation at the edge of our land. It’s about 10m x 10m and 2m deep.

While Ping and I tried to figure out who to ask for help, our friend Bilhas already jumped into the water, without any thought to how he will get out of the reservoir.

The pangolin was fearful and would not let go. Bill had to pry his tail loose and grabbed it by the tail.

In my ignorant state, I was afraid to touch or hold it. Now I learned a few facts about this little known mammal.

1. It doesn’t have teeth, so doesn’t bite.

2. The claws might look big but they are not for attacking. In fact, pangolins don’t have the ability to attack, it can only defend by curling into a ball, using its tough scales as protective shield.

This morning’s rescue effort made me read up on pangolins. We know about trafficking of elephant and rhino tusks but I didn’t know about the pangolins. This is what I found from NatGeo #rachelnuwer article on pangolins. They are the world’s only scaled mammal, and that conspicuous distinction has contributed to their status as the world’s most trafficked mammal. Poachers target pangolins throughout Asia and Africa primarily for their scales, which are used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. Research indicates that hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of pangolins are killed each year.

But according to a new report in Conservation Science and Practice, scales aren’t the only reason people covet the scaly anteaters—and Asia hasn’t always been the only center of demand for them. Before 2000, the United States was a major importer of pangolin skins, which were used to make exotic leather cowboy boots, belts, and wallets.

Since 2017, all eight pangolin species have been banned from international trade. Of the eight extant species, four occur in sub-Saharan Africa and four inhabit parts of Asia. The ones found in Taiwan are wild Formosan pangolins (Manis pentadactyla pentadactyla), a subspecies of Chinese pangolins.

Taiwan from 1950 until the early 1970s, pangolins were rounded up in the tens of thousands annually for both domestic and international leather markets, which eventually caused a population crash. A hunting ban on the species came into effect in 1973, and this started to make a difference to wild pangolin populations across the island. To top it off, the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1989 seems to have largely crushed the trade.

While the Chinese pangolin is in steep decline throughout its range from Nepal all the way across through Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and of course China, the population in Taiwan is growing.

This is the rescue hero Bill Liu, who’s gentle touch finally broke through the pangolin’s guard and allowed itself to be pried away from the pipe.

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