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Pangolins are fascinating creatures recognized for his or her distinctive look and distinctive scales. They’re mammals belonging to the order Pholidota and are native to Africa and Asia. As a result of their main weight loss program of ants and termites, pangolins are sometimes called “scaly anteaters”.

The African pangolin species are dispersed all through southern, western, central and east Africa.

Pangolins face fast declines throughout Asia and Africa, with all eight species labeled as susceptible, endangered, or critically endangered. They’re threatened by poaching and habitat loss, pushed by the demand for his or her meat and scales.

Pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammal on the earth. Their meat is taken into account a delicacy in Asia whereas their scales are additionally utilized in conventional medicines, fetching big sums on the black market. As many as 8.5 million pangolins are estimated to have been faraway from the wild in west and central Africa for the unlawful commerce between 2014 and 2021.

The commerce route evaluation of pangolin trafficking factors to Lagos as the principle connection level each domestically and worldwide, together with south-east Asian international locations. Malaysia, Laos and Singapore additionally function key transit international locations for pangolin-scale shipments from Nigeria.

China and Vietnam are the principle locations for these unlawful shipments.

I’m a zoologist who’s passionate in regards to the atmosphere and biodiversity conservation. I’m additionally the founder and chair of Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria. For my part, efficient safety, regulation enforcement and modifications in shopper behaviour are crucial to handle the advanced drivers of poaching and trafficking.

What makes pangolins particular

Pangolins are attention-grabbing for quite a few causes.

Scales: Not like another mammals, they’re lined with keratin scales. This adaptation is a defence in opposition to predators. The scales, manufactured from the identical materials as human fingernails, present armour-like safety as they curl right into a ball when threatened, shielding their susceptible underbelly. The scales can account for as much as 20% of a pangolin’s complete physique weight. A pangolin’s scales are a reminder of the unimaginable range of diversifications within the pure world.

Habitats: Pangolins, as a gaggle, are additionally adaptable to totally different environmental circumstances. Their habitats embrace tropical forests, dry woodlands and savannahs. Some pangolin species, just like the white-bellied, are adept climbers and spend a lot of their time within the cover, foraging for bugs among the many branches. These arboreal habits present them with each meals and shelter, in addition to safety from ground-dwelling predators. Different pangolin species, resembling the bottom pangolins, reside on the forest flooring or in grasslands. They could dig burrows underground the place they retreat for relaxation and security, significantly in the course of the warmth of the day or to flee potential threats.

Defence: The title “pangolin” originates from the Malay phrase pengguling, which interprets to “rolling up”. They tuck of their head and limbs and curl into a good ball when confronted with hazard, wrapping their physique in a protecting layer of overlapping scales. This has helped pangolins survive predators resembling huge cats, hyenas and people.

Eating regimen: Pangolins primarily feed on ants and termites, making them important gamers in controlling insect populations inside their ecosystems. They discover the bugs utilizing their eager sense of odor and their tongues – which are sometimes longer than their our bodies. These lengthy tongues are coated with sticky saliva, permitting them to probe deep into ant and termite nests to extract their prey. Their robust claws are additionally well-suited for tearing open insect nests and breaking via laborious soil to uncover hidden prey. Pangolins’ diets play an important function in sustaining the well being and stability of their environments.

Pangolins in Africa

In west and central Africa, the large pangolin is distributed in a wide range of habitats, together with main and secondary forests, swamp forests and wooded savannahs. Temminck’s pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) is the most generally distributed African pangolin, occurring primarily in southern and east Africa. The black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) is an arboreal pangolin species, and happens in west and central Africa. The white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) is probably the most regularly encountered pangolin in Africa. The white-bellied pangolin is present in north-central and south-western Nigeria.

In Nigeria, pangolins are present in varied habitats, together with forests, savannahs and grasslands. Their distribution and abundance in Nigeria are unsure, highlighting the necessity for additional analysis and conservation efforts.

Learn extra:
400,000 African pangolins are hunted for meat yearly — why it is time to act

Lagos, Nigeria’s business capital, serves as a hub for the unlawful commerce of pangolins. It’s a transit path to Cameroon and is concerned in shipments of pangolins from sub-Saharan Africa to Asia. Cameroon is at the centre of wildlife trafficking in central Africa. It’s each a supply nation of animal merchandise in addition to a transit route for contraband from neighbouring Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

In 2022, Nigerian customs officers seized 1,613 tonnes of pangolin scales and arrested 14 folks. In October 2023, Nigeria burned 4 tonnes of seized pangolin scales, valued at US$1.4 million. Officers stated this was the primary time that they had publicly destroyed seized wildlife merchandise to discourage unlawful trafficking.

Why pangolin conservation is necessary

Pangolin conservation is essential for a number of causes.

Firstly, pangolins play an important function in ecosystems by controlling insect populations, significantly ants and termites, which helps preserve ecological steadiness.

In addition they contribute to soil well being via their digging behaviour, which aerates the soil and promotes nutrient biking.

Furthermore, pangolins are indicators of ecosystem well being. Their presence or absence can mirror the general well-being of their habitats. Defending pangolins helps safeguard biodiversity and the integrity of their ecosystems.

In addition they have cultural and financial worth in lots of areas, contributing to ecotourism.


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