Pangolins, or "scaly ant-eaters", are burrowing mammals that eat ants and termites. They are covered in protective, overlapping scales that cover most of their bodies. The scales are made from keratin - the same protein that forms human finger nails and hair. Their scales are sought after because they are believed to have healing powers.
Tons Of Pangolin Scales Were Seized In China Recently
South China Morning Post reported that at least three tons of pangolin scales from Africa were seized at a Shanghai port. The scales are said to come from about 5,000 to 7,500 pangolins, experts say. Custom officers found the scales in 101 woven plastic bags, hidden on a ship on December 10.
Custom officials say that the suspects have been smuggling pangolin scales to China from Africa since last year. The seizure is the biggest of its kind by customs from mainland China, and the case is still under investigation.
Pangolins Are The Most Trafficked Mammal In The World
Dan Challender, co-chair of the pangolin specialist group, said: "Pangolins are a group of species that are arguably forgotten in the conservation movement. They're nowhere near as visible as other animals like tigers and rhinos."
The animal itself can be eaten, but there is greater demand in pangolin scales, especially to people from China and Vietnam. Dried scales are used to cure a variety of illnesses. Traditional Chinese medicine use pangolin scales to promote menstruation and lactation, reduce swelling, and to expel pain due to rheumatism or arthritis.
According to The Guardian, more than a million pangolins have been killed in the past decade. There is already a global trade ban in all of the mammal's species. No one exactly knows the number of pangolins left in the wild, but experts say these ant-eaters could be extinct soon.