Save the Pangolin!

Pangolins are unique and extraordinary mammals characterised by their scaly skin, which protects them in the wild. Eight species of pangolins inhabit Asia and Africa: Indian pangolin, Chinese pangolin, Sunda pangolin, Philippine pangolin, tree pangolin or white-bellied pangolin, long-tailed pangolin or black-bellied pangolin, giant pangolin and Temminck’s ground pangolin.

The name pangolin derives from the Malay word ‘penggulung’, which means roller. This name is representative of how pangolins behave when they feel threatened, rolling up into a ball. Pangolins are solitary mammals and are primarily nocturnal. They inhabit various different types of forest such as tropical, limestone, bamboo, broad-leaf and coniferous forests. Grasslands and agricultural fields may also be suitable habitats for pangolins. Their diet consists of ants and termites.

According to the IUCN, pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammal. Their popularity in the illegal wildlife trade is due to poachers selling them as meat and their scales being used in traditional medicine to treat psoriasis and poor circulation. Two species have been listed as Critically Endangered, the Chinese and Sunda pangolin. Indian and Philippine pangolins are Endangered and the four remaining species of pangolin are Vulnerable. These classifications reveal the threat pangolins face from extinction. With more than one million individuals being taken from the wild over the past decade, there is no better time than now to take action and help save the pangolin from extinction. We must give pangolins a voice.

A pangolin is taken from the wild every five minutes. On the 1st of February 2017, three tons of scales from African pangolins were seized from traffickers at Bangkok’s main airport. The scales were representative of 6,000 dead animals. This atrocity is worth more than $1 million dollars on the illegal market.

Since 2001, the Little Fireface Project team has been including pangolins in our survey work throughout Southeast Asia. These surveys include their wild habitat and sadly in the markets too. LFP Research Associate Dr Nabajit Das of the University of Guwahati is undertaking one of the first studies of pangolins in Assam, Northeast India.

On the 18th February a global pangolin day is being held in celebration of this incredible mammal. You can help save the pangolin from extinction by raising awareness of the cruelty imposed on this animal by:

  • Sharing this article
  • When traveling, don’t buy pangolin meat or products such as pangolin leather.
  • Support pangolin conservation and charities
  • Spread the word!


Written by Lucy Holland, LFP Volunteer

High Whistles and Growls from Pygmy Loris fighting the illegal Trade in South Vietnam

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The Endangered Asian Species Trust founded in 2007 (UK charity 1115350) established the Dao Tien Endangered Primate Species Centre, in Cat Tien National Park South Vietnam. The centre in direct collaboration with the Forestry Department of Vietnam focusses on endangered primates found in the illegal wildlife trade in the South of Vietnam.

When Dao Tien opened its doors golden-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus gabriellae) and black-shanked doucs (Pygathrix nigripes) flooded in from the illegal tourism and pet trade. At that time in 2008 only one or two pygmy lorises (Nycticebus pygmaeus) were confiscated. With the support of Veterinarian Uli Streicher who introduced EAST to the world of lorises we started radio-collaring and returning these few individual pygmy loris back to the forest. Each individual is important, so every pygmy loris released was radio-collared and monitored post-release. Sadly in the early days many died from predation, but in recent years with a refined protocol we have excellent survival rates. We have also worked hard on captive husbandry and diets, especially providing gum diets for the captive lorises in preparation for return to the wild.

More recently however, the numbers of confiscated pygmy lorises have significantly increased. Pygmy lorises confiscated and donated from long term pets, rich and poor families. But mostly pygmy lorises in the hands of hunters or traders confiscated by the Forestry Protection Department being traded in major towns such as Dalat, Nha Trang or Ho Chi Minh City. Confiscation data from Environmental Police indicates heavy hunting from the central highlands, triggered by new road developments. The roads providing greater access for hunters.

Our research suggests that the demand for pygmy lorises within Vietnam is not great, with reports how they are not good pets, not lively enough. Vietnam with a strong culture of song birds, like to keep beautiful wildlife in small bird cages. For the nocturnal loris hiding from the light, with no beautiful song, just an odd high pitch whistle in distress, hiss and growl, they are not highly desired – Yet!

Pygmy loris radio-collared

The only good thing that arises from this “song bird culture” is that the lorises in the south are not having their teeth pulled like in other regions. The pygmy lorises are in general little handled, so reports of negative reactions to the toxic bite are few and far between. At Dao Tien however we can report that the bite from a captive pygmy loris is very strong, triggering extreme anaphylactic shock in some humans. One of many reasons why they should never be considered as a pet.

The fear now in Vietnam is that with greater hunting access more pygmy lorises and other endangered wildlife are being dumped in the large cities which may trigger a behaviour change and a demand for lorises as pets. Now more than ever the awareness about loris conservation is vital, alongside capacity building within and around protected areas.