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Current Affairs 2023

Chinese Pangolin - UPSC Current Affairs

The Chinese pangolin, a critically endangered species, is a scaly anteater native to Southeast Asia and southern China. It faces severe threats due to poaching for the illegal wildlife trade and its scales being used in traditional Chinese medicine. Conservation efforts are underway to protect this unique mammal.

Jun 19, 2023

3 min read

In the depths of the northern Indian subcontinent, parts of Southeast Asia, and southern China, resides a remarkable creature known as the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla). This scaly anteater has captured the attention of conservationists worldwide due to its critical status as a critically endangered species. With its distinctive appearance, unique characteristics, and numerous threats, the Chinese pangolin stands as a symbol of the urgent need for conservation efforts.




The Chinese pangolin possesses an intriguing set of features. Covered in grayish-blue scales, it exhibits a body length ranging from 40 to 58 cm (16 to 23 in), complemented by a tail measuring 25 to 38 cm (9.8 to 15.0 in). Adult pangolins weigh between 2 to 7 kilograms (4.4 to 15.4 lb) and boast 18 rows of scales intertwined with hair, a rarity among mammals. Females give birth to a single offspring, which they carefully carry on their back or tail. 


This elusive creature is primarily nocturnal, utilizing its slow movements and protective scales as defense mechanisms against potential predators. When threatened, the Chinese pangolin curls into a tight ball, a behavior known as "volvation." It feeds mainly on insects, particularly termites and ants, excavating their nests with its powerful fore claws and extracting them using its long, sticky tongue. Pangolins also construct burrows for sleeping and hunting.


The Chinese pangolin faces numerous threats that have pushed it to the brink of extinction. The illegal wildlife trade, driven by the demand for its meat and scales, poses the most significant danger. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) attributes various healing properties to pangolin scales, leading to their extensive use despite alternative ingredients being available. Legislation and protective measures have been implemented across range countries, including China, India, Nepal, and others, but the enforcement and effectiveness of these laws remain challenging.


Conservation efforts have been initiated by organizations such as the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation. These initiatives aim to raise awareness, conduct research, and combat poaching through monitoring, demand reduction strategies, and incentives for local communities. Additionally, advances in DNA analysis and barcoding may contribute to the identification of suitable substitutes for traditional medicine and aid in the detection of illegal trade.


The Chinese pangolin is not merely a fascinating creature but a symbol of the urgent need to protect and conserve Earth's biodiversity. With its critically endangered status and ongoing threats from poaching and habitat loss, immediate action is imperative. Through collaborative efforts, public awareness, and innovative conservation strategies, we can strive to safeguard this incredible species and ensure a sustainable future for the Chinese pangolin and other vulnerable wildlife.


Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters - Manis pentadactyla

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