Indian pangolins (Manis crassicaudata) which are also known as thick-tailed pangolin are inimitable mammals having thick and rigid keratinized scales covering all around their body. There are a total of eight species of pangolins which are only found in countries of Asia and Africa subcontinents. Four species are reported in Asia out of which only one is found in Pakistan and their distribution is localized in the provinces of Sindh, Baluchistan and some parts of Punjab including Potohar Plateau.
Pangolin is a nocturnal animal that mainly feeds on insects and their scales provide a unique self defense mechanism against predators. When threatened, the pangolin transforms itself into a ball and the scales act as a protective layer which shields its soft body parts. It stays in this position until the threat is over. It is also said that no one can kill this animal except for man.
This insectivorous mammal species are highly vulnerable because of their massive hunting due to their demand for international illegal trade for its scales and meat. Its scales which are made up of keratin are believed to have traditional importance and used as medicine in China and also in other countries, however there is no scientific proven research related to its medicinal benefits. The meat is also traded to various countries and considered a delicacy especially among wealthy people of Vietnam and China.
Due to massive illegal hunting, the pangolin species are now categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. But still it is being reported to be the world’s most trafficked wild animal species and about more than 277,000 pangolins are traded since the year 2000 from both Asia and Africa subcontinents. The rapidly increasing poaching is responsible for causing adverse impacts on the population status of pangolins.
In Pakistan, various studies have been reported to highlight this severe issue of illegal trade and massive killing of Indian Pangolins for smuggling purposes, both internationally and domestically. It was recently reported in 2019 that almost 25.4 kg of Pangolin scales were illegally smuggled from Pakistan to China due to weak law enforcement.
Another comprehensive research on cross border analysis of illegal pangolin trading showed that approximately 120 tones of the pangolins body parts were smuggled in between 2010-2015. The pangolins are dominantly present in Potohar plateau having 89%of the species population in this region but the rapid decline is observed in this area because of increased pressure on the pangolins hunting. From 2011-2013, most of the killings were reported in Chakwal and Attock Districts of Pakistan.
There is an alarming situation for this endangered species and urgent mitigation measures are needed to be taken for saving the Pangolin species in Pakistan. In present, various conservation plans are being taken by different organizations for protecting this unique mammal. Especially WWF is working all over Pakistan for conserving pangolins in wildlife sanctuaries and also searching on market trade and habitats of species for better understanding of the community behavior and scope of poaching.
All the conservation efforts would only be possible if we also involve the local communities for protecting the pangolins and make people aware.If pangolin species are killed at the same speed it will ultimately disturb the ecosystem resulting in an abundance of insects’ population that will cause havoc. Currently, the penalty for illegal poaching of Indian Pangolin is PKR 10,000. This number is not enough because the selling price of pangolin is ranged between PKR 50,000-80,000. Therefore strict rules and penalties are required to prevent the massive killing of Pangolin species in Pakistan.
In the end I would like to conclude my article with following quote that:
Author: EFFAH MALIK
From University of Karachi