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Pangolin, the most trafficked mammal in the world on verge of extinction

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New Delhi, Feb 19: They may not make headlines like tigers, elephants or rhinos, but Indian pangolins, the most trafficked mammal in the world are critically endangered and need as much protection as those better known mammals.

Last year, TRAFFIC's study had found nearly 6000 pangolins in illegal wildlife trade in India during the period 2009-2017, closing to nearly 650 pangolins every year since 2009. However, this is a conservative estimate as only a fraction of illegal wildlife trade is detected, and actual numbers are likely to be higher.

Pangolin, the most trafficked mammal in the world on verge of extinction

TRAFFIC's study had also found the states of Manipur and Tamil Nadu as the hotspots for pangolin smuggling, based on the majority of seizures that took place.

Most trafficked wild mammal

Globally, pangolins are considered the most trafficked wild mammal and their meat is consumed as a delicacy and as a "tonic food" because of its unproven yet alleged medicinal properties. Pangolin scales are traded in huge quantities for use in traditional Chinese medicines. Most of the poaching and smuggling across pangolin's range countries is targeted for international markets in China and Southeast Asia, says WWF statement.

India home to two kind of species

India is home to two species of pangolins- Indian Pangolins Manis crassicaudata and Chinese Pangolins Manis pentadactyla. Hunting and trade in both the pangolin species is banned under India's Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 while international trade is prohibited under CITES (Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Despite this protection, the trade continues unabated threatening the future of species in the wild, the press release stated.

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Dr Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC, India office said, "Improving an understanding about this elusive animal is important for curbing its illegal trade. Poaching and smuggling of pangolins and their body parts is driven by consumer demand and if buying can stop, supply of pangolins in illegal wildlife trade will cease to exist eventually."

Pangolins often called scaly anteaters are considered farmer's friends as they help to keep a check on populations of ants and termites and help improve soil quality. Therefore, is it important that efforts are directed to stop poaching and smuggling of pangolins in India.

Pangolins and superstitions

But superstition is killing these gentle animals. They are poached for their scales, which are used in traditional medicine although science does not endorse this. Unscrupulous witch doctors known as "tantriks" are responsible for the large-scale slaughter of these creatures due to superstition.

80% decline in 5 years

Pangolins are used in Chinese medicine and the meat is considered an exquisite delicacy. Of its three main sub-species, the Chinese pangolin's population has been in regular decline, down 94 percent over the past 60 years. The animal is described as "critically endangered" in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

But it is the Indian pangolin that is suffering the swiftest decline. The population of this animal is down by 80 percent in just the past five years, according to the WWF.

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