Illegal pangolin trade prevalent in Manipur threatens the mammal species

Imphal,Oct14:Pangolin is the only mammals with scaly covered, shy and about the size of house cat, is the most illegal trading and trafficking animal in the world.Pangolin is known as Shaphu in Manipuri .The name comes from the term penguling meaning rolls up, to defend itself against predators by rolling into a ball like shape when threatened. Generally, Pangolins are known as anteaters, a medium-sized solitary, nocturnal, insectivorous and climbing tree mammal.

They are found mostly in bamboo forests, limestone areas, grassland, agricultural fields, dry hill and plantation farms. The mammal is protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, CITES in Appendix II of endangered animals by regulating and monitoring the international trade to prevent the mammals from extinction.

The species is also recognised as IUCN Red Data list of threatened species.Morphologically, pangolin tongue is longer than the body making it comfortable for eating insects, powerful frontal claws for digging termite mounds and odorous anal gland to ward off predators. Male are larger than the female part. Male exhibit remarkable parental instincts but the long lasting bondage is the relationship between mother and its offspring. Male attract female by urinating; an action which produces strong smell in which female can identify and locate using their extraordinary sense of smell (pheromones).

Mother pangolins nurse the offspring from the mammary glands till three to four months old. The female gives birth to single offspring at a time. The young pup come with soft scales, white colour and flexible for the first two to three days of their life. Although they are able to walk at birth, baby pup are carried on their mother tail or back.In the present era, pangolin poses the largest threat among all the mammals in the world. This is because of the fact that they are bestowed on a person authority and sometimes given to the tribal chiefs as a mark of respect. The tribal people still following the laws regarding the traditional beliefs of pangolin hunting. It is also believe that seeing a pangolin during the daytime indicates imminent drought, and the only way to find a solution is to sacrifice a pangolin next to a river.

The mammal are often use to deflect evil spirits while others believe in carrying the scale or a vial of pangolin blood on one’s person will protect from any danger. As a mark of traditional respect pangolin scales are use as a part of traditional dress, ring or charms and so forth. In conflict zone areas, pangolin scale are use to make bullet proof jacket.Pangolin is predominantly used as a source of bush meat or another variety of dish in many tribal areas.

On special occasion, the mammal meat is serves as a special food item. After being hunted and killed, the pangolin is roasted over a fire or boiled to remove the scales, if like to preserve the meat for long time. It is believe that haemorrids can be cured by keeping pangolin smoke in a room for a sudden period of time. It can stimulate lactation, infertility, cure cancer or asthma according to their ethno medical culture where medical science has yet to be proved.

Other medical facilities include prevent pneumonia, heal wound and piercing boils (antiseptic property). The skin is also used to manufacture leather goods including boots and shoes.Illegal trafficking and trading of animal is a form of trans-national bio-piracy crime that threatens endangered species across the country.

The North Eastern region including Manipur is a home of diverse floral and faunal diversity is now vulnerable to illegal exploitation and trafficking threats. The recent decline of pangolin populations in the state need to be study, monitor and influence action to curb illegal wildlife trade and trafficking within sustainable levels.

There is an urgent need for knowledge and action to bring legal wildlife trade within sustainable levels and stop all illegal wildlife trade that has threatened and even pushed many species towards extinction.

Most of the pangolin species and its derivatives are destined to Myanmar, China, Nepal, Vietnam and Thailand via through the border state of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. China, Nepal and Vietnam are believed to be the main trafficking countries in relation to other Asian countries, although some of the pangolins are imported to Myanmar as bush meat or scales for trade.

The international illegal trading is become one of the most significant threats to pangolin species in the near-future. Similarly, fragmentation and habitat loss is another significant threat to pangolin species across the state.

With the increasing population, there is shortage supply of natural resources. In addition, improved logistics and infrastructure are contributing to the demise of endangered species. Mines, agriculture and settlements also lead to significant habitat loss. Trading of animal in the primary markets of East Asia and South-East Asia is mainly driven by the demand for the meat, which is expensive and consumed to demonstrate status, and the scales, which is used in traditional medicine is another factor leading to extinction. Sometimes, Pangolins are accidentally killed on roadways.

The extent of this threat is difficult to determine as carcasses are often removed by scavengers, interested persons and suppliers of the traditional medical trade.The need of the hour is to take up measurable steps with effective implementation to scale up the pangolin population from the brink of extinction. To increase awareness among the tribal communities, local villagers and educated people about the severity of the problem and most importantly, implement demand reduction strategy for pangolin meat and scales toward balancing the ecosystem services and strengthen its conservation.

Appendix II means that the mammal is not directly threatened with extinction, but will be if measures are not taken to prevent the exploitation of this species. Poaching or trading or any other form of their exploitation attracts a person term of 3-7 years in jail also a fine of up to 10,000. Major threats include hunting and poaching for local consumptive use and international trade.

Pangolin assists as pest control by feeding on termites that are harmful to agricultural crops, playing a significant role in the ecosystem services.Out of the eight species found worldwide, India is home to two species of pangolins, the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).The two species will surely decline considerably in numbers in the near future.

Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is native to north and north eastern states of India apart from Bbangladesh , Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam while Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is widely distributed across the country. World pangolin day is celebrated every year to raise awareness about this only unique mammal and their rapid decline across the globe.(benthhook@gmail.com)

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