Wildlife conservation in India is dominated by efforts to save the Tiger and the Indian Rhino. However poachers are turning towards smaller animals and scores of lesser known but equally majestic species are disappearing fast.
Two such lesser known but incredible animals are the Indian Pangolin and the Star Tortoise which are being smuggled and poached in large number while the focus of attention of the media was on iconic animals like the Tiger or the Rhino.
Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, an advocacy group said, “The problem is that we were turning a blind eye to all lesser-known species and suddenly this very lucrative trade has been allowed to explode,”
The demand of these exotic animals are increasing in China , Vietnam and other ASEAN countries where they are kept as pets or eaten for their ostensible but questionable medicinal or aphrodisiacal properties. The growing affluence of the population in these countries has made the business of pouching of such exotic animals very lucrative.
Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in China and their scales are also used for making traditional Chinese Medicine. It is amusing that Pangolin scales are used for making medicines since there is no documented evidence of its medicinal value. The scales are composed of keratin which is the same protein which is present in hairs and finger nails.
The pouching of pangolin was never heard in India in the past and in an average only three were killed per year by poachers between 1990 and 2008. The figure shot up to more than 320 per year from 2009 to 2013. This is only the tip of the iceberg and experts feel that the actual figures could be much higher and the seizures could account only about 10% of the illegal trade.
Something similar is the situation with Star Tortoise. Seizure of Star Tortoises has increased dramatically from 800 per year in between 1990 to 1999 to more than 3000 per year from 2002 to 2013.
.”This is a huge tragedy in the making,” Wright said. “We must act before it is too late, or many of these spectacular animals will disappear.”