The Chinese Pangolin is a scaled anteater ranging from 19 to 23 inches long and weighing 4 to 15 pounds. It is found from the Himalayan foothills to Southern China and Northern Indochina. The solitary and mostly nocturnal animal has adapted to many varied terrains and is largely terrestrial but is also a good swimmer and has been known to climb trees. Its diet consists of termites and ants. It digs the soil or tree with its long claws and uses its long sticky tongue to extract the prey from the ground. It makes its home in burrows it digs itself or enlarges from termite passages. Its scales, made of bone, form strong protection and it rolls into a ball to protect itself from predators. Females give birth to a single young and carry it on their backs.
The Chinese pangolin’s rapid demise is being caused by demand for its meat, which is considered a great delicacy in China, and by demand for its scales which are used in a variety of traditional Chinese medicines. With increasing affluence of the Chinese, a poacher can be paid $50.00 for a pound of pangolin meat. The sharp decline in the Chinese pangolin has led to heavy poaching in Java, Sumatra, the Philippines and the Malaysian peninsula where the Sunda and Philippine pangolins are found. In 2010 Chinese custom officials seized a ship with 2,000 frozen pangolins and 92 crates of scales. In 2013 a Chinese boat crashed into a coral reef in the Philippines. It was carrying 400 boxes with tons of pangolin meat. While protection laws for the pangolins have been instituted in nearly all the affected countries, the high monetary value for the meat and scales continues to drive the pangolins to extinction.
Chinese Pangolin. 12″ X12″, acrylic on paper, 2015, Mark W. McGinnis