Archive Content

Please note: This page has been archived and its content may no longer be up-to-date. This version of the page will remain live for reference purposes as we work to update the content across our website.

Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica): Has a sweet Name, unfortunately not as sweet as its fate

Posted on March, 01 2019

The high wealth of biodiversity in Indonesia makes this country becomes the home for distribution and market sales of endangered and high-value wildlife.
By: Novi Hardianto
Law Enforcement and Wildlife Trade Officer, WWF-Indonesia
Editor: Nur Arinta

The Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica) has a sweet name but it doesn’t have a sweet fate. In Indonesian language, Manis literally means sweet. 

The high wealth of biodiversity in Indonesia makes this country becomes the home for distribution and market sales of endangered and high-value wildlife. One of the animals targeted by poaching and illegal trade is Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica). This species is traded for consumption of body parts, such as meat, tongue, skin, and scales which are believed to be efficacious as traditional medicines for Chinese people and as raw material for drugs. 

Eating pangolin body parts that are considered as exotic food is also seen as one of the prestigious things (Zhou, 2014). Before it was known as a raw material for traditional Chinese medicine, pangolin scales were used as raw materials for making handicrafts, purses and other accessories. While the meat is used as a luxury dish and a source of protein for local people.

Pangolins are on a very high demand animals on the global black market. The needs for meat and scales in China are estimated to be around 100,000 - 135,000 kg per year. Pangolins' trade has occurred since the 1990s, when at that time Pangolins were exported from Indonesia (Mohapatra, 2015). Data from stated that between 1999 and 2017, there were at least 192,567 Pangolins involved in illegal trade.

In carrying out the action, the body parts of the Pangolins and its whole body are smuggled in various ways. The group of smugglers moves very quickly using more than 150 different routes and adds nearly 30 new routes every year.

Pangolins are the only mammal scaly on the sole of the Pholidota family. Even though this species is a protected species in Law Number 5 of 1990 concerning Conservation of Biological Resources and the Ecosystem, the scales on the anteater that function as a means of sheltering from prey, are now a threat because they are targeted by poaching and bring them into Critically Endangered Status based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Not only that, its status in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) is Appendix 1, which means it cannot be traded.

Why are pangolin scales used as a raw material for drugs? It turns out that the scales contain the addictive substance of Tramadol HCI which is an analgesic addictive substance to deal with pain and is a substance binding agent in the type of shabu psychotropic.

Unfortunately, the population of Pangolin in Indonesia has not yet been known. This is an obstacle in the conservation of Pangolin itself. However, the occurrence of poaching and illegal trade of rampant Pangolin clearly made the population drop dramatically. The decline in this species increases due to the span of its life which only reaches a maximum age of 7 years, as well as weak law enforcement for perpetrators of hunting and trade.

There are many cases of ownership and trade in Pangolin scales even in the Heart of Borneo, a tropical forest area that is an initiative of three countries of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia, where many pangolins live in the forests.

For example, the results of the investigation conducted in Balai Karangan Village, Sekayam Sub District, Sanggau District, West Kalimantan, in December 2018 seemed to assert that Indonesia, especially Kalimantan, was still a supplier area for Pangolin trade. Need further verification and deepening of the way of shipping between countries and the possibility of related persons playing in the trade of Pangolins on the borders between countries.

Although the total population is unknown, the information obtained is that these animals have been difficult to find in nature. 

What is the impact of the loss of Pangolins in nature? Pangolins in nature will not have a direct impact on humans, but the ecological role of animals that like to dig land in the forest in search of ants or other insects, is able to swell forests and accelerate the biogeochemical cycle of forests. 

Pangolin's behaviour also maintains the indirect process of tree regeneration that provides oxygen to humans. With the many roles of Pangolin for ecosystems and the need to preserve their population in nature, it has become a shared challenge in the protection of Pangolin in Indonesia.

According to the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group, Sunda Pangolin will become extinct in the wild if we do not stop illegal hunting and trafficking. There are several solutions to narrow the Pangolin trade and slow the rate of extinction in Indonesia, including: coordination and cooperation with law enforcement officials, the Director General of Customs and the Center for Financial Transaction Analysis Reporting (PPATK); Encouraging courts and prosecutors to give severe penalties for the perpetrators of the possession and trade of Pangolin; and encourage the government to complete the revision of Law Number 5 of 1990 concerning Conservation of Natural Resources and their Ecosystems.

Let us act along with the trade in Pangolins and other protected wildlife. You can contribute to efforts to eradicate the illegal trade in wild plants and animals protected by being a supervisor. Monitor and report if you find this prohibited trade practice, through the Protected Wildlife e-Reporting application.
Stephen Hogg, pangolin, wwf malaysia, heart of borneo, hob
Though we cannot determine the pangolin’s population numbers in the wild due to a lack of data, it is safe to say that the pangolins simply cannot sustain if such large scale trade continues.
© WWF-Malaysia/Stephen Hogg
Sunda Pangolin.
Sunda Pangolin.
© Stephen Hogg / WWF Malaysia