Most people have no idea that this is the world's most poached animal

2020-03-03 15:00 - Marisa Crous
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Today is World Wildlife Day, which was initially instituted to raise awareness of the world's wild fauna and flora. In light of this, we look at the pangolin trade and the recent coronavirus epidemic which prompted China to permanently ban the trade of wild animals as food.

However, this ban does not extend to medicinal use, the selling of fur or wildlife for research, which leaves major loopholes to consider says conservationists.

A wild animal market in Wuhan may have been where the outbreak of Covid-19 began, and pangolins in particular have been proposed as a possible host of the virus. 

Most people have no idea that the pangolin is the world's most poached animal. Not only that, most people have no idea what a pangolin is.

A small mammal, covered in overlapping scaled, their diet mainly consists of ants and termites and they are hard-to-locate, nocturnal animals. 

Depleted in Asia, poachers are now coming for African pangolins, usually located in sub-Sahara Africa. National Geographic reports that they are heavily poached for their keratin-rich scales, particularly to be used in traditional medicine in China and South East Asia. 

Conservationists estimate that one pangolin is poached from the wild every five minutes.  

On Endangered Species Day, Friday 17 May, a brilliant and thought-provoking film by South African filmmakers, Bruce Young and Johan Vermeulen, Eye of the Pangolin premiered at The Labia in Cape Town.

READ: Meet the filmmakers behind the ground-breaking new documentary that is fighting to save the pangolin  

This powerful documentary film is the story of two men on a mission to tell the story of the endangered African pangolin. Travelling extensively across the African continent, the filmmakers make it their mission to find and film all four species of African pangolin, i.e Tree or African white-bellied pangolin, Giant ground pangolin, Cape or Temminck's ground pangolin and Long-tailed or black-bellied pangolin.  

The film also features the conservationists, guides and scientists at the front lines, caring for and protecting these vulnerable animals. 

READ: The pangolin and whale dilemma: Two animals that need all the love they can get 

Pushed to the edge of extinction, there is so little known about this shy animal, one of the most elusive on the planet. Many people have never heard of it or seen it in real life; and these sensitive, nervous animals don't survive in captivity.

READ: 'These practices have gone unregulated for too long': The crucial stance SA needs to take on animal encounters

"Our goal is to make Eye of the Pangolin the most widely watched wildlife documentary ever, that will be seen by millions of people around the world via free online platforms, through schools and other educational establishments, at wildlife film festivals, and at screenings supported other conservation organisations everywhere.

"By making the film open source we can reach the greatest possible number of viewers because we believe that if people come to know the African pangolin they will care enough to somehow help put a stop to the horrific trade.

"To ensure the greatest possible impact we are launching an intensive screening campaign for Eye of the Pangolin, taking the film to rural schools in high poaching areas across the continent where poaching may be a livelihood for communities or traditional cultural practice," says Pangolin.Africa, who has partnered with these award-winning directors to produce a powerful, awareness raising film much like Blood Lions did for canned lion hunting. 

Watch it, share it and find out how you can help here. 

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