Help for this ‘walking artichoke’ and other wildlife

The world’s most trafficked mammal is getting some badly needed protection.

Pangolins are sometimes referred to as “artichokes with legs.” But delegates from 180 countries take them very seriously. They recently banned trade in pangolins and pangolin products at an international wildlife conference in South Africa.

Animal lovers may know more about elephants or rhinos, but the elusive, prehistoric-looking pangolin is threatened with extinction. Their keratin scales (made of the same material as our fingernails and hair) are often ground up and falsely advertised as medicine.

Pangolin walking on bags (© AP Images)
A pangolin poses during a wildlife rescue news conference in Thailand (© AP Images)

The conference also boosted protection for Barbary macaques and African grey parrots.  But that’s not all:

Renewed ivory ban

Elephant herd walking, with Mount Kilimanjaro in distance (© AP Images)
African elephant populations shrank 30 percent from 2007 to 2014 because of poaching, according to new studies. (© AP Images)

Officials rejected two proposals to reopen the ivory trade, and those rejections will protect African elephants most in danger of poaching.

Domestic ivory markets allow organized crime syndicates to launder poached ivory through legal trade and perpetuate the consumer demand driving the elephant poaching crisis,” Ginette Hemley of the World Wildlife Fund said.

A ray of hope for sharks

Thresher shark swimming (Shutterstock)
Thresher shark (Shutterstock)

Thresher sharks, silky sharks and certain rays also got some help. Every year, up to 100 million sharks are killed for their fins or caught in fishing nets.

“This is a big leap forward in preventing further overexploitation and population decline,” said Anna Oposa, shark champion, referring to the new protections.

“Threshers, silkies and mobula rays are attractions for our diving industry, and they are clearly worth more alive than dead,” said Oposa, eco-diver and “chief mermaid” of Save Philippine Seas.