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Pangolin exists in Cambodia but faces extinction

A shy but highly valuable mammal now faces extinction because of illegal wildlife trade. WCS

According to a study and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), pangolin is the most widely trafficked mammal in the world, especially in international trade for the so-called traditional medicine, health supplements as well as medicine for various diseases while in Cambodia the population of pangolin is unknown but through the seizure by authorities, this species is facing extinction.

Mr. Olly Griffin, a Technical Advisor at WCS told AKP that Cambodia is home to one of the eight species of pangolins, the Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica), Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

“The Cambodian population of pangolins is extremely threatened, and continues to decline,” he said. “Under Article 49 of the national Forestry Law, it is illegal to ‘harass, harm, hunt, net, trap, poison, possess, stock, maintain as a zoo or pet, transport, trade, export, or import’ pangolins and violators face one to five years in prison, a fine of up to about $2,390, or both.”

Anyway, he underlined, pangolin is still threatened by illegal poachers and consumers and export likely to China and Vietnam for local folk medicines, health tonics, and as a source of protein.

Sunda Pangolin most likely ranges in size from 30 to 100 centimetres and has small ears, thick skin almost all over its body and is not very agile. When being threatened, pangolin often hides its face and wraps its tail to protect itself. With its about 25 centimetres long tongue, Pangolin consumes insects such as ants, mites and termites as its daily food and the fact is that pangolin does not have teeth.

Pangolin is a mammal, which means they give birth to live young and then produce milk and nurse them. Once the female is pregnant, she will carry the unborn baby, called a fetus for around five months before giving birth. The pangopups always seat on the top of its mother tale when its mother moving around. Pangolin’s life expectancy is scientifically unknown but expected to be around 20 years in captivity.

Mr. Griffin said the usage of pangolin is much like tiger bone wine, pangolin “health tonics” are made by mixing the animals blood with wine or even soaking whole carcasses in vats of the alcohol, none of which have ever been shown scientifically to be effective. Instead, consumers are ripped off by paying high prices for something with no real medicinal value.

Similarly, Dr. Ly Sovann, Director of Communicable Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Health, stated that the blood, keratin scales or any part of the pangolin as well as other wildlife meat, blood or bone and so on have not been scientifically proven to be good for health. There is no medical or scientific claim that it can be used or mixed with anything else to cure a disease, or to be a health booster or health supplement, but instead it could be a source of zoonotic diseases.

An estimated 1 million pangolins were trafficked in the last ten years, though this number may be conservative given the volume of recent pangolin scale seizures and as many as some 195,000 pangolins were trafficked in 2019 for just scales only, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

In Cambodia, at least 558 pangolins were seized by Cambodian authorities; however, this represents only a small fraction of the number that were actually entering the trade from or through this country between 2001 and 2008.

Mr. Griffin further said that WCS provides pangolin protection through support to the Ministry of Environment in managing large protected areas, including areas where Pangolins are found. “We work with local communities to improve their livelihoods, providing alternative livelihoods, as well as supporting indigenous rights through supporting communities to obtain legal land titles to their traditional lands. This allows more long-term planning, and reduces the pressure to illegally kill Cambodia’s wildlife to sell to the Vietnamese and Chinese,” he said.

Mr. Michael Meyerhoff, Country Director of Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), stated that pangolin scales are made of keratin, which is the same chemical substance as human finger nails and hair are built from. “Nobody would eat their own hair or nails in order to cure diseases,” he stressed.

There are eight species of pangolins in the world, of them three (Manis culionensis, Manis pentadactyla and Manis javanica) are listed as critically endangered, three (Phataginus tricuspis, Manis crassicaudata and Smutsia gigantea) as endangered, and two (Phataginus tetradactyla and Smutsia temminckii) as vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Phen Rattanak – AKP

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