A Struggle to Save the Scaly Pangolin

April 1, 2015


By Erica Goode   March 30, 2015

“PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A peculiar creature that looks like a four-legged artichoke is thought to be the planet’s most frequently trafficked mammal.” [The journalist side of me appreciates that lead into the story]

Pangolins are insectivores with a tongue longer than its body and a tail so powerful it can hang upside down from tree branches.

Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in parts of China, where it is believed to nourish the kidneys. Pangolin scales, made of keratin, like human fingernails, are used in traditional medicine to treat skin diseases and other ailments. Trade in the animal has a long history: In 1820, King George III of England was presented with a suit of armor made from pangolin scales.

But the demand (and consequential supply) of pangolins has grown sharply in recent decades. Poaching has increased not only in Southeast Asia but also in Africa.

Customs officers seize thousands of pangolins and hundreds of pounds of pangolin scales each year, often disguised as other goods. In late January, officials in Uganda said they had seized two tons of pangolin skins packed in boxes identified as communications equipment. In France a few years ago, more than 200 pounds of pangolin scales were discovered buried in bags of dog biscuits.

Most countries, including Cambodia, have laws against hunting pangolins. But enforcement is often weak, and the incentive for local poachers in poor rural areas to catch and sell pangolins and other wildlife to middlemen for smuggling organizations is strong.

But so many have been killed that they and Chinese pangolins are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The international union considers all of the pangolin species threatened.

“The pangolin runs the risk of becoming extinct before most people have even heard of them,” Britain’s Prince William said last fall.

Peter Knights, the chief executive of WildAid, said that his and other conservation groups were mounting efforts to rescue the pangolin in advance of the 2016 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Pangolins are listed under the convention’s Appendix II as animals that are not yet threatened with extinction but may become so. WildAid and other organizations argue that pangolins should be moved to Appendix I, which prohibits all commercial trade.

“The pangolin’s odd appearance has not helped its cause, Ms. Olsson said.” [Ouch haha that’s not very nice]

“That’s one of the problems with species like pangolins,” she said. “It’s not huge and not very charismatic. It’s small and weird and just disappearing.” [wow, even nicer]

A Pokemon character, Sandslash, was loosely based on the pangolin, thought to be the only scaled mammal.

Once thought to be a relative of the anteater, the sloth and the armadillo, the pangolin belongs to the taxonomic order Pholidota, and genetic studies suggest it is more closely related to raccoons and giant pandas than to animals it resembles.

Burrowing in trees or tunnels, pangolins have weak eyes but keen noses to smell insects and powerful claws to dig them up. Their long tongues are sticky, able to scoop up hundreds of ants at once, their ears closing up to prevent the ants from swarming inside. Like skunks, pangolins can emit a foul odor when threatened.

The animals are easily stressed in captivity and do not do well with artificial food. But with the proper mash of ants and termites, they can thrive.

read more/see video at:


[I thought this article related well to what we have been reading about in Placing Animals. The ethical debate regarding human use of animals is really interesting. Where do we draw the line and what are effective ways to actually enforce restrictions?]

Current Envionmental Article

April 1, 2015

Wearable Electronics’ Newest Wrinkle: Power-Producing Cloth

Self-powered electronics are the future of technology and scientists are one step closer to reaching this goals. The basic principle is using the static electricity produced by the friction of our everyday movements to power electronic devices such as phones or watches. The most latest example of this technology takes the form of a flexible cloth that captures the energy produced and can store it for later use. The future plans for this cloth include making clothing and accessories using it as well as any ways to commercialize the product.

Little bits of plastic are being found everywhere

March 25, 2015

Surprise Finding Heightens Concern Over Tiny Bits Of Plastic Polluting Our Oceans

by: Lynne Peeples

read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/23/plastic-ocean-pollution-fish-health_n_6923872.html

Scientists are finding little bits of plastic in a lot of places lately: ice cores, deep sea sediments, coral reefs, crab gills, the digestive system of mussels, and even German beer. Now, new research suggests, scientists need not to be searching for the actual man-made material to discover it.

A team’s accidental finding of plastic in the skin of both farmed and wild fish adds to already growing environmental and public health concerns about the plastic particles pervading our oceans and waterways.

Over time, waves and sunlight break down large chunks of plastic, leaving the remnants of discarded packaging, bottles and bags nearly invisible to the naked eye. These so-called microplastics, particles under a millimeter across, may pose big troubles, experts warn.


“It fragments quickly. We fear that as plastic continues to break down, it becomes even more susceptible to being eaten or even embedded into their scales. Plastic has been found in creatures ranging from worms and barnacles to seabirds and marine mammals. Through bioaccumulation, Synthetic chemicals can then travel up the food chain, and potentially on to our dinner plates.

An estimated 5 to 13 million metric tons of plastic litter enters the world’s oceans every year. Since plastic does not biodegrade, it photodegrades, the plastic is accumulating each year.


A blue rectangular piece of microplastic is visible on a researcher’s finger. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Decades of convenient plastics and environmental pollution “may be coming back to haunt us in our seafood,” said Chelsea Rochman, a postdoctoral fellow in conservation research at the University of California, Davis.

At the forefront of the current debate over microplastics are microbeads, the minuscule balls of petrochemical-derived plastic added to hundreds of cosmetics, sunscreens, toothpastes and exfoliating body washes. When they’re rinsed down the drain, microbeads can flow through sewer systems — where they are often too tiny to be efficiently filtered by wastewater treatment plants — and into lakes, rivers and, ultimately, oceans. They arrive in the environment already fish-food size, even before the waves and sun begin breaking them down.Microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes drove Illinois to pass the first ban on microbeads last summer. .

“There are a whole host of questions that could come out of this,” said Law. “We’re starting to ask more questions about our drinking water.” The most pressing need right now is to improve waste management systems so that they can properly capture the plastic.

“In the long-term, we all need to think about how we’re using plastic,” Law said. “Individual actions can add up to have a positive impact.”

Massive marine sanctuary created in the Pacific

March 24, 2015

Pitcairn island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean whose population is said to be descendants of Fletcher Christian, a sailor that led a mutiny against their captain on the Royal Navy ship Bounty. They settles on Pitcairn island and burned Bounty to avoid detection. Now the waters surrounding the island where the ship supposedly went down in flames just became the world’s largest contiguous ocean reserve. The reserve is roughly 322,138-square-miles and home to at least 1,249 species of marine mammals, seabirds and fish.


Current Events

March 4, 2015

Giant panda population rises by nearly 17 percent (March 2, by Jeremy Hance)

Giant panda at the Panda Breeding Centre in the Wolong Panda Reserve. Photo by:<br />
© Bernard de Wetter / WWF.

The world’s giant panda population has risen by 16.8 percent. It has gained 268 individuals over the last decade, hitting a total of 1,864 animals, according to China’s fourth decadal survey.

Found only in China, giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The only surviving member of its genus,  the giant panda lives almost solely on bamboo. It’s currently threatened by habitat loss and degradation.

Giant panda eating bamboo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Not only are the pandas increasing in number but their range is also increasing. The species now covers 2.57 million hectares with about a third of the animals inhabiting range outside of protected areas.
China is fairly proud of this achievement and hopes to see the population continue to grow.

Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0302-hance-giant-panda-population.html#ixzz3TSQR4R8P

Environmental Article

March 4, 2015

Picture of a frog with a fungus in Madagascar

Deadly Frog Fungus Pops Up in Madagascar, an Amphibian Wonderland

Madagascar is home to a mind-boggling array of frogs, 99 percent of which are found nowhere else in the world. But a study released Thursday finds the island nation now also hosts the greatest threat to amphibian biodiversity in modern times—the chytrid fungus. As many as 7 percent of the world’s amphibian species live only in Madagascar, and they may be in serious danger. The fungus is responsible for the decline/extinction of hundreds of amphibian species around the globe. The good news is that they have not found many sick frogs in the area which suggests that either they caught the fungus outbreak early or the chytrid strain isn’t very strong. Experts are creating on a multifaceted response working on preventative treatment options as well as setting up breeding facilities to protect particularly vulnerable species.

Air pollution linked to slower cognitive development in children

March 3, 2015

Based on a study done in Barcelona, air pollution is linked to slower cognitive development among 7-10 year old children. Researchers measured 3 cognitive outcomes, (working memory, superior working memory, and attentiveness) of 2715 primary school children in 39 schools. They compared students in high-polluted areas to those in lower polluted areas. Results showed that in less polluted areas children showed an 11.5% 12 month increase in working memory whereas children in more polluted areas showed only a 7.4% 12 month increase in working memory. The results claim that the developing brain may be vulnerable to air pollution well into middle childhood.

Image result for children in class



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers