I remember distinctly the first time I saw a picture of a pangolin. I was browsing a coffee table book on Africa at a friend’s house. I thought it was some sort of a joke. They look like the love child of an artichoke and an aardvark. But the situation got even more strange when I went to show my friend the picture, and I couldn’t find it in the book, even after an exhaustive search. My friend asked if someone had slipped me some magic mushrooms.
I didn’t see another one of these strange creatures until decades later, in a Youtube video. Finally! Vindication! But by that time me and my friend had gone our separate ways.
So I was really amazed to see this article in National Geographic that states that the pangolin is the world’s most trafficked mammal. That’s really ironic because I’m fairly certain that if you surveyed a random sampling of Americans, 99 percent of them wouldn’t even know the pangolin existed. In essence, an animal is endangered that few people are aware of in the first place.
They are apparently found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and they’re prized by the people of China and Viet Nam for their medicinal properties, some of which, of course, they believe enhance virility. (And of course there is absolutely NO medical evidence that this is the case. I would love to know why these people seem to be so dissatisfied with their virility in the first place, but who am I to judge, when every third advertisement in this country is for Viagra?)
To make things worse for these little critters, they are extremely easy to hunt, because they’re toothless and their main defense move is to curl up into a ball. And the females only give birth to one baby, once a year, so they’re having a lot of trouble keeping up with the pace of human predation.
The good news, according to National Geographic, is that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species just voted to shut down sales of pangolins, in whole or in part, across borders. Don’t you just love it when people get together to do the right thing? (Of course, this will make pangolin stuff harder to come by, which will in turn make it more highly prized. But still. It’s a start.)
If you love pangolins, or heck, if you’re even partial to artichokes or aardvarks, please support these little guys by sacrificing your pursuit of virility, gentlemen. If you ask me, it’s not very manly to kill off an entire species, especially one this cute. It certainly doesn’t make you attractive in my eyes.
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