sunda pangolinToday is World Pangolin Day, an occasion to recognize the rapidly impending extinction of the eight species of scaly anteaters from Africa and Asia. Let’s take this as an opportunity to get a glimpse of one of the most endangered of these wonderful and barely understood creatures.

Species name: Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), also known as the Malayan or Javan pangolin

Where found: Southeast Asia, with a broad range that includes China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

IUCN Red List status: Despite the long list of countries in which the Sunda pangolin can be found, the species is actually critically endangered. Populations have declined by more than 80 percent over the past two decades.

Major threat: Rampant poaching. All pangolin species are heavily hunted for their meat. Their scales are also valued in China and other countries for their supposed medicinal qualities. Experts estimate that more than one million wild pangolins (from all eight species) have been caught and killed over the past decade. The trade in Sunda pangolins is actually fairly low right now because so many of them have already been killed.

Multimedia: Here’s a video of a Sunda pangolin being released after it was rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. This one’s fairly lucky: many rescued pangolins don’t survive.

Notable conservation programs: The IUCN/SSC Pangolin Specialist Group does some of the most important work to study and understand this species and the factors that are driving it into extinction.

Previous Extinction Countdown articles about pangolins:

Photo by Wildlife Alliance. Used under Creative Commons license