Pangolins are the most illegally trafficked mammal. This image from a new photographic series features the efforts by conservationists to halt their decline before the creatures go extinct
THIS curious creature is a pangolin, the only mammal that is covered in protective scales.
This signature feature is why pangolins, which are native to Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, are frequently illegally trafficked, traded and hunted: their scales are used in traditional medicine in China and parts of Africa. There is no scientific evidence that pangolin scales, which are made of keratin – the same substance as human fingernails – have any medicinal properties. Pangolins are also hunted for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in some countries.
The pressure on pangolins is compounded by habitat loss and their slow reproductive rate: they give birth to just one pup each year.
In 2016, signatories to CITES, the international treaty on the wildlife trade, voted to ban the trade in pangolins, yet poaching and trafficking persist. All eight species of pangolin are now threatened with extinction.
This image of Aura, an adult female pangolin that was rescued in a sting operation, is part of a series by photographer Neil Aldridge called Protecting Pangolins. The photos detail efforts by conservationists at an animal rehabilitation centre near Hoedspruit, South Africa, to halt the pangolin’s decline before they go extinct.
More on these topics: