A timely exposé of the trade in pangolins

29 June 2020 - 13:38
'Pangolins: Scales of Injustice' by Richard Peirce.
'Pangolins: Scales of Injustice' by Richard Peirce.
Image: Supplied

Smuggled into China and sold for meat in live animal markets in cities such as Wuhan, the pangolin has dominated world headlines. Is it the vector for Covid-19?

Pangolins have long been sustainably harvested by local communities for their meat and scales, but today the burgeoning trade in these mammals has reached crisis point.

Eight pangolin species occur worldwide - four in Asia and four in Africa - and all face extinction if current rates of hunting and trading continue unabated.

Now the spotlight is on the world’s most trafficked mammal. Scientists have identified pangolins as the likely source of the coronavirus infection that has brought the world to its knees. This multitrillion-dollar disaster makes pangolins the most expensive meals ever eaten.

In this timely exposé, Richard Peirce unpacks the horrors and dangers of the trade in this enigmatic, little-known mammal. He explains the links between wildlife and Covid-19, and details China’s response to the pandemic.

He also tells the story of a particular pangolin poached in Zimbabwe and brought to SA to be traded. Readers accompany an agent of the African Pangolin Working Group, assisted by the local police, on an actual sting operation to rescue the animal and capture the traffickers. They follow the subsequent progress of the rescued pangolin, from near death to rehabilitation and release into the wild.