Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pangolins: Anteaters From Another Planet?

"Species: ADORABLE."
Daily Squee (April 30, 2010)

"There comes a point in every blogger's life where he has to admit that his commenters are smarter than him. I'm giving up. You guys? What is this thing?..."

(from Daily Squee, used w/o permission)

The first two folks to leave a comment got it right: it's a pangolin.

Pangolins: They're Endangered, of Course

Unlike bats, cats, gnats, and rats: Pangolins are endangered. And, of course, there's at least one 'save the pangolins' organization. Probably more than one. Throw a sustainable rock these days, and you're likely to hit some 'Save the [whatever]' outfit. Not that I'd throw a rock, sustainable or otherwise, unless I was really sure where it would land.

SavePangolins.org, by the way, seems to have a point: there's a brisk demand for pangolin parts in China; and some folks in southeast Asia are willing to deal in contraband pangolins to supply the demand.

The website includes this paragraph:
"...Little is known about the illegal trade in Asian pangolins other than its alarming scale, which is evidenced by confiscations of shipments seized from the black market of thousands of pangolins. The lack of information about the trade makes combating it that much more challenging...."
("Threats," SavePangolins.org)
One of those shipments was pretty big:That wasn't 5,000 pangolins, by the way. The ship carried pangolins, Asian giant turtles and lizards.
No Pangolins in Minnesota: But This isn't All That Off-Topic
I don't think that uncontrolled hunting is a good idea, by the way. I live in central Minnesota, where the gray wolf population is managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Good thing, too: Gray wolves were in trouble a few years back. (Back in the 19th century, it seemed like a good idea to exterminate wolves. They eat deer - and, more to the point, livestock. Then we noticed that we were up to our hips in deer. You get the picture.)
Back to the Imperiled Pangolin
My ears pricked up when I read: "The lack of information about the trade makes combating it that much more challenging." It's 'way too easy to read that as 'we don't know much about this, but we're sure it must be really bad because it must be a crisis.'1

Well, the pangolins could really be in trouble.

Apparently nobody's thought of raising the things as livestock. My guess is that the first person to figure out how to do so without getting hit by every wildlife PAC on the planet will make a fortune - and save wild pangolins by outproducing and underpricing the hunters and smugglers.

We might wind up having as many pangolins as we do pigs: which might be extinct by now, if we didn't raise the things for - just about everything. Some wit said that the pig industry sells "everything but the scream."

The Pangolin: What Planet is That From?

Despite appearances, the Pangolin is native to Earth. Those scales are made of keratin, just like our hair and fingernails. Only different.

If you think a pangolin looks like an anteater, you're right. Sort of. I mean, it doesn't look like Myrmecophaga tridactyla. But it does: in overall shape.

And, in a generic sense, pangolins are anteaters. They eat termites, too.

And have very sharp scales: which tends to discourage predators. I mean to say: there's got to be a meal that's easier to get at, than a rolled-up pangolin.

Which reminds me: I found a video. Two, actually.

"Scaly Pangolin in Kalahari Desert"

uitspan, YouTube (November 06, 2006)
video, 0:58

"Get detailed info on http://www.kalahari-trophy-hunting.co...
This pangolin is quite scarce, even in the Kalahari. This video shows how it wraps itself when danger is near and how it moves off.

This video reminds me of home movies, without narration.


sonefe67, YouTube (October 26, 2007)
video, 2:19

"a very interesting armored animal"

A more polished, and rather old-style, micro-documentary.

Almost-related posts:More (than you may want to know) about Pangolins:
A tip of the hat to irish_brigid, on Twitter, for the heads-up on that baby pangolin photo.

1 I remember the dying gasps of McCarthyism (think Frank Burns, in television's M*A*S*H), when some terribly earnest folks were sure that the commies were behind what they didn't like: because there was no evidence to speak of. To them, that proved that a conspiracy was covering up the evidence. You can't argue with logic like that.

So, I get a little skeptical, fast, when folks say they don't have much information, but are sure there's a great crisis.

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