Senator Faisal Javed Khan pangolin
Senator Faisal Javed Khan addressing a media awareness session on Indian Pangolin in Margazar Zoo, on Thursday, May 5, 2021. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: The Indian pangolin — a critically endangered mammal — is on the verge of extinction as 80 per cent of its population has been either hunted or trafficked out of the country.

These concerns were raised by experts and officials of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Pakistan) and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) at an awareness-raising session held inside the Margazar Zoo that is no longer functional since the departure of Kavan, the lone elephant, to Cambodia last year.

They called for use of drone technology and radio-transmitters to trace, preserve and enlarge the families of pangolin.

Poachers get away unpunished

In Pakistan, the experts said, poachers of this harmless and eco-friendly animal get away without any problem as there are no penalties or punishment for them.

On the contrary, if they succeed in smuggling its scales, they can earn thousands of dollars as the animal is in high demand in the eastern markets for its scales and meat.

Rab Nawaz, WWF Senior Director (Biodiversity), said with the help of the Customs Department, WWF has succeeded in bringing down the illegal trafficking and smuggling of the pangolin’s scales, but there is no let-up in hunting of the creature.

Eco-friendly animal

The session also highlighted the ecological benefits of the pangolin, which eats ants and termites, and the role it plays for farmers by saving yield, Rab Nawaz said.

The speakers also warned that whereas Malaysian and Mongolian pangolins are almost extinct, the Indian pangolins’ population has also reduced by 80 per cent and if corrective steps are not taken the remaining 20 per cent will also soon vanish, they warned.

Dr Tariq, Professor at Arid University, Rawalpindi, in his presentation gave useful information about the existing situation with regard to habitat of the Pangolin in Pakistan.

1 million pangolin smuggled in 10 years

They are found in Chakwal and adjacent mountainous terrain, he said, adding that during the last 10 years, approximately 1 million pangolins were exported to the eastern market where they are in high demand, he said.

The Indian pangolin is found in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka but here its life is critically threatened by poachers.