Be a Pangolin Protector for World Pangolin Day


As World Pangolin Day approaches and these vulnerable animals are being discussed in the news, Chicago Zoological Society and Brookfield Zoo wanted to share some important information about pangolins and how you can help them as they face extinction.

What Are Pangolins?
Often referred to as scaly anteaters, pangolins are small predominantly nocturnal mammals covered in scales made of keratin, the same material of which human fingernails are made. The name pangolin comes from the Malay word “penggulung,” meaning "one who rolls up,” as they curl up into a ball when threatened, the overlapping scales acting as defensive armor. Today, all eight species of pangolin – four native to Asia and four to Africa – face extinction.

Pangolins are the world’s most hunted and illegally trafficked mammal. More than a million wild pangolins have been killed in the last decade as interest grows for their meat and scales. They have also been used for jewelry and medicinal purposes. It is predicted that an average of 20 tons of scales a year are being smuggled into China and other Asian countries. Pangolin products can still be found for sale in the US, including Illinois.

Are Pangolins Connected to the Coronavirus?
There have been a number of question regarding the potential of pangolins being the intermediate host species for the coronavirus (nCoV-2019) or now named (COVID-19) by the World Health Organization (WHO), that emerged this year in China from the Wuhan Market. This has led to concerns about all pangolins of which there are eight species, four in Asian and four in Africa.

The virus is similar to the coronavirus that was identified as the cause of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which also emerged in China in 2002 and spread worldwide. The SARS virus is an animal virus that came from an as of yet unconfirmed wildlife reservoir (suspected to be bats) and was spread to humans through contact with other animals (civet cats). The trade and sale of numerous wildlife species and animal products for human consumption in extremely close proximity in many Chinese and other Asian markets, facilitates the transmission of animal diseases to novel hosts, which can carry the viruses and transmit them to humans.

There is some suggestion that the 2019 novel coronavirus may have been transmitted to people through the consumption of pangolin meat. This connection has NOT been firmly proven and the supporting research has not been fully published. It is merely an observation at this point that cannot be fully evaluated. The conclusion is based on similarities of nCoV-2019 to viral genomic data found in Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica), that was published last fall. The genome of an organism is the whole of its hereditary information encoded in its DNA.

In response to concerns about all pangolins in general….. consider that pangolins are sold every year in the hundreds of thousands for meat and medicinal purposes throughout SE Asia, this viral event has occurred only in the area of the Wuhan Market in China. Furthermore, without exposure to the original source of the virus (presumed bats), pangolins in general do not pose a risk of transmitting the COVID-19 disease to people.

The issue at hand now is the transmission of the COVID-19 disease from human to human and a lack of a protective vaccine.


How is Chicago Zoological Society Helping Pangolins?
CZS and Brookfield Zoo is a founding member of The Pangolin Consortiuma partnership of seven institutions who are committed to supporting pangolin conservation efforts around the world.  CZS and Brookfield Zoo has the greatest capability and resources to direct towards the Consortium's efforts.

The CZS staff has also been a leader in nutritional, husbandry, and veterinary health research efforts. CZS also house the funds collected from the member institutions that support the Consortium grants program.

CZS’s pangolins are white-bellied pangolins (Phataginus tricuspis), native to Africa. They are a unique species that is distinct from the Malayan pangolin.


How Can You Help Pangolins?
Right now, the Illinois General Assembly is considering Bill HB4787, which would create the Pangolin Protection Act. It would prohibit the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of pangolin products. It would also establish an exemption for organizations such as CZS who are engaged in pangolin research or conservation. Write to your elected officials about the importance of saving this endangered species. Encourage your respective state legislators to support the bill by signing on to be a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation. You can also sign a petition to save the pangolin. The petition signatures will be presented to the sponsors of HB4787 to demonstrate public support for pangolin conservation.

World Pangolin Day
World Pangolin Day, held on Saturday, February 15, 2020, is an opportunity for pangolin supporters to come together in raising awareness about these unique mammals and their situation. Some of the activities you can do at Brookfield Zoo and beyond to support pangolins include:
· Visit Habitat Africa: The Forest at Brookfield Zoo on February 15 to engage with animal care specialists in pangolin chats to learn more about these animals and how you can help them. You'll also get to make pinecone pangolins, which you share on social media and with friends. You can pick up an exclusive pangolin sticker by participating.
· Share information and insights on social media using the hashtags #PangolinProtector and #WorldPangolinDay to raise awareness.
· Make your voice heard by signing the petition to save the pangolin and write to your elected officials about the importance of saving this endangered species.

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Posted: 2/13/2020 3:33:09 PM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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