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  1. ITV Report

Humans eating a scaly anteater, the pangolin, to extinction

Conservationists warn that humans are eating the scaly anteater to extinction as a new study shows all species of pangolin are under threat.

Pangolin Credit: PA

The situation for the pangolin - the world's only truly scaly mammal - has worsened rapidly with all eight species now at risk of extinction.

Experts warned that the pangolin, whose scales are used in Chinese medicine and whose meat is seen as a status symbol in China and Vietnam, is the most illegally traded mammal in the world.

Pangolin scales Credit: PA
  • More than a million pangolins are thought to have been snatched from the wild over the past decade for use in medicine or served up as a delicacy
  • Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are insect-eating mammals found in tropical regions of Asia and Africa
  • They live in trees or on the ground, are mostly nocturnal and have scales as armour to protect against predators

Two species, the Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin, are now listed as critically endangered, the highest level of risk, two are endangered and four are vulnerable to extinction.

Pangolin Credit: PA

Experts say as populations of Asian pangolin species have plummeted, traders are now looking to Africa to meet demand.

The Zoological Society of London's Professor Jonathan Baillie said:

Demand has been increasing in China and Vietnam, and it's acting like a wave going across China and South East Asia and Africa. It's commercially extinct in China but the demand is not decreasing, if anything it's increasing. As a result species further afield are being hunted, with the latest large seizures of illegally hunted pangolin coming from Africa. In the 21st century we really should not be eating species to extinction - there is simply no excuse for allowing this illegal trade to continue.

– Jonathan Baillie

Pangolin scales are used in Chinese medicine to cure a variety of ailments including psoriasis and poor circulation, although they are made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails and toenails.

And the meat is high status and expensive, often ordered as a means to impress or to celebrate business deals.