July 14, 2009--
A rare pangolin fetus floats in soup in Indonesia in 2008. Some practitioners of Asian traditional medicine believe pangolin-fetus soup increases a man's virility.
But because pangolin mothers typically produce just one pup per litter, the soup comes laced with a deadly irony. Whatever the soup purportedly does for individual humans, its popularity could be helping to squelch the reproductiveness of an entire species.
Because of growing demand for pangolin meat and scales, the toothless creature is now being hunted to the edge of extinction, according to a July 14 report by the international conservation group WWF
and the wildlife-trade watchdog group TRAFFIC
, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature
Native to the Indian subcontinent, Asia
, and Africa
, the pangolin, or scaly anteater, is especially coveted in China
, where it has been overhunted, WWF says. China's reduced supply fuels pangolin hunting in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia
, and Indonesia
, says the report, which was funded in part by the National Geographic Society's Conservation Trust
. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)
Photograph courtesy WWF/TRAFFIC/International Union for Conservation of Nature