India’s endangered species nobody wants to save, or talk about


If you saw the pangolin, you’d probably find it quite adorable. It’s a shy, stooped creature that ambles close to the ground, looking furtively at the world through beady eyes.

When threatened, this prehistoric mammal curls up into a ball, presenting a hide covered in overlapping scales so tough, they can withstand a tiger attack — or blows from an axe. These scales are also the reason the pangolin is on the endangered list. For one thing, they make it easy to capture, and impossible to kill. So about 3,500 pangolins are boiled alive in India every year (and about 10,000 worldwide, according to 2014 data from the UK-based NGO Environmental Investigation Agency).

Thus separated from the skin, the scales fetch up to Rs 15,000 per kg on the black market, to eventually be used as a ‘tonic’ in traditional Chinese medicine.

All this has made the pangolin the most-poached mammal in India — and the world. And yet there is little data on its decline; only vague estimates of how few are left; just the fact that the young are being poached so extensively to hint at how few adults probably remain.

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