This small mammal could benefit from the pandemic

Could Covid-19 save the pangolins?

What is a pangolin?

The pangolin, specifically the Chinese species Manis pentadactyla, is a small mammal that can grow from between 12 to 29 inches big. They have protective keratin scales all over their bodies and tend to hide in hollow trees or burrows during the day. These nocturnal creatures use their long tongues to eat ants and termites. Often alone, pangolin only interact to mate one to three times in their lifetime and only raise their young for about two years. This specific species is one of three critically endangered pangolin species while the other five range from endangered to vulnerable.

In the Gabonese capital of China, pangolin meat is still available on the stalls at this market. They are also highly sought after as Chinese traditional medicine believes that their protective scales can get new mothers to lactate, cure cancer, or cure asthma. The sale of this animal, the most poached mammal in the world, is illegal. BBC News reports that 100,000 are trafficked per year to China and Vietnam, with over one million trafficked over the last decade. Some even worry that pangolins will be specifically targeted for mass slaughter since the new reports show that pangolins may be the source of COVID-19.

Why is coronavirus helping them?

Suspected of being the intermediate hosts that would’ve enabled the transmission of the virus to humans, these small mammals could benefit from the pandemic. The sales of pangolin have decreased since the start of the pandemic. Over the last few days, Chinese buyers have disappeared. In China, the epicenter of the pandemic, the government has taken strong measures to curb the health crisis. In 2003, similar measures were taken to stem the SARS epidemic, but they were suspended after a few months. Other sectors are exempt from the recent bans: fur, breeding for zoological parks and traditional medicine. However, this sector should be subjected to stricter controls and quarantines.