JAKARTA, July 31st, 2012— Acting on a tip, Indonesian police intercepted 85 endangered pangolins from smugglers in what is reported to be the first major pangolin seizure in Indonesia this year. Despite being stuffed into sacks, eighty percent of the animals were alive. The scaly anteaters were likely destined for Hong Kong or mainland China.
Pangolins are approaching extinction as a result of insatiable demand (particularly from China and Vietnam) for all four pangolin species from East and Southeast Asia. The flesh of adults and babies is considered a delicacy, while the animals’ scales are used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. Such pangolin concoctions serve as a “cure-all remedy” for things like reducing swelling, improving liver function, promoting weight loss, stimulating blood circulation, enhancing lactation in breast-feeding women, and have even fallaciously been claimed to cure cancer. None of the medicinal claims made about the critters and their body parts have been backed by science.
Pangolins are disappearing at an alarming rate. In 2011 alone, an estimated 41,000-60,000 are believed to have been removed from the wild. An estimated 40,000 were killed.
Officials are working with a natural resources conservation agency to return the survivors to the wild. It is unclear how many of them may survive the reintroduction as they are known to commonly experience life-threatening complications after being removed from the wild.
Last month, Indonesia burned nearly thirteen tons of pangolin carcasses and scales seized from smugglers, thereby sending a message to consumers and profiteers that black market trade in these creatures will not be tolerated.
Source: Associated Foreign Press