By John R. Platt
Dan Challender remembers the first time he saw someone eat a pangolin. As part of his research into the consumer demand and illegal trade of the small mammals—often referred to as scaly anteaters—he found himself in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012. To help his research Challender made friends with the restaurant owners, who had been known to serve pangolin, but he didn’t expect to be there when the customer arrived and placed an order. “This guy ordered a pangolin just because he could afford it,” Challender says, noting the man paid between $600 and $700 for the animal. “A friend had recommended it to him.”
The restaurant owners brought a pangolin out in a bag and tipped the live animal onto the customer’s table, where it sat in the defensive ball that both protects and dooms them. “They tried very hard to uncurl it, because they’re very strong animals. It quickly dawned on me that this creature had had it and there was very little I could do to intervene.” A few minutes later the animal was killed, prepared and eaten.
It was just one of many.
No one knows exactly how many pangolins are sold each year, but it probably numbers in the tens of thousands. Almost all of this trade is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which forbids all trade in the four Asian species and strictly limits trade of the four African species. Unfortunately, international and domestic protections have done little to stem the tide.
It’s not all that hard to poach a pangolin from the wild. More....