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The Poor Pangolin

Do you know what a pangolin is?

I had only the vaguest idea until a few days ago, when I read a newspaper report that pangolins are being ‘eaten to extinction’.

The pangolin, in case you too were as unaware of the species as I was, is a scaly anteater.  It is found in one form or another – there are eight varieties, apparently – across Asia and Africa.  It seems that the Asian pangolins are fast disappearing.  This has led to a booming trade in imported African breeds. 

The explanation, almost needless to say but worth saying anyway, is that the poor pangolins are in great demand, not because they make lovely pets, but because their scales are considered a delicacy of the kind served at haut table in China and Vietnam.  

Chinese gourmands of the emerging entrepreneurial class I imagine like to start a banquet with a bracing cup of tiger’s blood, followed by an hors d’ouvre of rhinoceros semen, and as a first course, perhaps, a Pangolin scale salad, served with essence of elephant tusk or a drizzle of cobra testicles. Such exquisite culinary delights make my occasional visits to our local Chinese restaurant seem very tame.  The next time I go, I may ask, with a knowing wink and a meaningful nod, to be shown the list of delicacies not displayed on the menu.

Are there any endangered species on the planet that the Chinese do not eat? 

Pandas, I hear someone say. 

Well you may be right.  But I would need very little convincing that even those adorably cuddly critters, also on the verge of obliteration, occasionally adorn the dinner tables of Shanghai plastic manufacturing billionaires.

It is bad enough to have to share the planet with religious zealots who still like to behead or burn alive those who deviate from their particular One True Faith, including of course those who commit acts of consensual sexual congress with members of the same gender.  It is only slightly less galling in the Grand Scheme that we also have to make room for a race evidently determined to extinguish, as quickly as possible, all those creatures that offer, in some superstitious fantasy dating back to the Dung Dynasty, such properties as to enhance the sexual act, by increasing the vigour with which it is performed, or extending its duration or raising the heights of the ecstasy experienced – or whatever.

We live in a supposedly enlightened age.  Scientists have divined the mysteries of our genetic structure.  We, the tribes of the world, can now communicate with each other at the touch of a button on a hand-held device.  We can create human beings in a variety of ways that render conventional procreative practices, so despised by religious fanatics everywhere but so beloved by warlocks in China, virtually redundant.  We kid ourselves that we are smarter, more knowledgeable and more tolerant than any generation in the whole history of mankind.

Yet we are determined to kill off as many of our fellow creatures as we possibly can, including, it seems, the humble, harmless and lovable pangolin.

I may not have known what a pangolin was a few days ago, but now I feel like starting a Save the Pangolin movement.

Will anyone join me?

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