Prince William put it well: “The pangolin runs the risk of becoming extinct before most people have heard of them.”
At least 60 pangolins are believed to be living in the Hoi Ha area, based on studies by a group of activist academics, Dr Robin Bradbeer said. Robin is the secretary of Professional Commons, which has enlisted the help of environmental firms and students. They have installed wildlife cameras and filmed the scaly creatures and traces of them for three years.
“Based on the evidence it’s our educated guess there are 60 pangolins or more in the Hoi Ha and Pak Sha O areas,” Robin said.
The most smuggled animals, pangolins are an endangered species. Their Hoi Ha habitat is threatened by developers, while green groups band together in opposition.
“We are all fearful for the animals if plans for 50 houses at Hoi Ha and another 150 in the Pak Sha O valley go ahead.”
Pangolins are about as cute as they come. Gentle and solitary, they walk with a comic rolling gait. They have blackcurrant eyes, pink bellies and long snouts and tails. Pangolins are the only mammals covered in scales. Threatened, they curl up in an impregnable ball.
Every year about 100,000 are trapped in the wild and smuggled into China or Vietnam. It’s a lucrative business for the unscrupulous because the meat is prized as a delicacy and the scales are believed to have magical properties. Now many SE Asia countries have no pangolins left.
“Will Hong Kong be next to lose them?” Robin said.
The smugglers pump the animals’ stomachs with gravel or rice to increase their weight. Live animals are the most valuable. In some restaurants they kill the creatures and cook them in front of you.