Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world with China being the main destination. Being the member of IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group, we are closely following this link to Covid-19 and trying to determine the association of the mammal with the virus.
I have been researching the Chinese pangolin for the past 12 years, and my fascination for this scaly mammal began 12 years ago during my university thesis. Since then, I have continuously worked in conserving the habitat and life of these small mammals. Every third Saturday of February has been declared World Pangolin Day to help spread awareness about pangolins both in the countries where they are found and where there is a demand for their meat and scales.
This year on 9th World Pangolin Day on 15 February the Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation (SMCRF) cleaned the habitat of pangolins by picking up plastic litter along with the installation of information boards along the Chandragiri walking trail on the western rim of Kathmandu Valley.
Protecting pangolins from being eaten to extinction, Sonia Awale
Better Nepal-China connectivity helps wildlife smugglers, Sonia Awale
Pangolins are very shy mammals, live inside the burrows and are more active in the night. There are eight species of pangolins: four in Asia and another four species in Africa. Among the four Asian pangolins; the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadatyla) and Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) are found in Nepal.
The Chinese pangolin is listed as Critically Endangered and Indian pangolin as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2019). They are also enlisted in CITES Appendix I and protected by Nepal’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973.
The Nepal government, university students and conservation organisations are working to protect these elusive animals. A nation-wide survey, development of monitoring guidelines and a five year (2018-2022) pangolin national conservation action plan have been undertaken.
However, detailed ecological knowledge on pangolins along with parasites and zoonotic diseases information are lacking, which means we do not really know about the threats to humans from pangolin hosts of the coronavirus.
Due to possibility of pangolin being the host of the Covid-19 virus, the mammals have suddenly been thrust into world attention. The Chinese Government, has already banned the illegal wildlife trade, including of pangolins.