Is it a cat? Is it a bear? Or, is it a crazy looking reptile? No, in fact, it's a pangolin!
Unless you’ve seen a pangolin, otherwise known as a scaly anteater, you’re unlikely to know what these strange looking creatures are, or much about them. However, a new IUCN SSC (International Union for the Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission) specialist group has just been established with the aim of understanding more about these creatures, their threats and how they can be conserved.
Pangolins, which are found in Africa and Asia, are unique among mammals. They are covered in horny, overlapping scales comprised of keratin and have been described as walking pine cones. The animals live almost exclusively on ants and termites in habitats ranging from tropical forests to dry savannahs, but very little is known about the animals and there are no estimates of how many are left. Pangolins are threatened by overexploitation for consumptive and traditional folk medicine purposes as well as by illicit international trade, which takes place to meet demand for the scales and meat of the animals.
The new specialist group, known as the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group was recently formed following the IUCN SSC Specialist Group Chairs meeting held in Abu Dhabi in February 2012 which was hosted by the Environment Agency –Abu Dhabi.
The IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group represents a new global voice for all eight species of pangolin and their conservation and is hosted by the Zoological Society of London. Comprising a collection of researchers from around the world looking at issues ranging from illegal trade, pangolin ecology, genetics and behaviour; the mission of the group is to ‘be a global voice for pangolins by working to advance knowledge and understanding of pangolins worldwide, their conservation needs, natural history and ecology and to catalyze action to meet these needs.’
For more information please contact:
Jonathan E. M. Baillie, Jonathan.Baillie@zsl.org
Daniel W. Challender, email@example.com