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Hunted to near extinction, pangolins may hold key to COVID-19

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Phinda, South Africa — The pangolin is thousands and thousands of years outdated, solitary, normally nocturnal and fully innocent.

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However in Africa, lots of of hundreds are poached yearly, nearly to extinction.

“If you happen to take rhino, elephant ivory, perlemoen, tiger bone, lion bone, mix it altogether — multiplied by 100 — pangolins nonetheless exceed that,” stated conservationist Ray Jansen, chairman of the African Pangolin Working Group and a professor at South Africa’s Tshwane College of Expertise.

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Pangolins are coveted for his or her scales, that are utilized in dozens of conventional Chinese language medicines, beneath the false perception they’ve therapeutic powers.

They haven’t any pure enemies within the wild. Their solely predator is people.

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The animals are offered for round $10,000 on the black market. Jansen’s intention is to avoid wasting as many as he can by going undercover as a purchaser. As soon as poachers have despatched him proof of life, he lures them to conferences the place the police are ready.

In a single current case, he helped police catch six males and rescue one of many animals, optimistically named “Lucky.”

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Whereas the lads, who withstand 10 years in jail for illegally possessing an endangered animal, had been booked into jail, Lucky was rushed to Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital the place veterinarian Karin Lourens and her group tended to his accidents. However she’s uncertain he will be saved. Only a few pangolins rescued from traffickers survive the trauma of the ordeal.

Regardless of years of medical coaching, Lourens feels helpless.

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“The struggling that he went via only for some silly scale — it is nothing. There is no medicinal worth,” she informed CBS Information, visibly upset.

For people who do make it, there’s a particular haven 250 miles away on the &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. A handful of rescued pangolins have been launched into the wild and are always monitored with monitoring gadgets.

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That allowed reserve supervisor Simon Naylor to rapidly notice one thing was unsuitable with a pangolin rescued over eight months in the past.

“We observed immediately that he was dragging his tail,” Naylor stated. The minor damage will likely be handled by a vet the subsequent day.

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Pangolins had been initially recognized as one of many prime suspects in passing on the coronavirus to people, however their distinctive immune system has advanced over thousands and thousands of years and will additionally include solutions to defeating the pandemic. Scientists in Vienna have been finding out why the pangolin is ready to carry the virus with out getting sick.

“I believe it is necessary that we put much more assets into understanding these animals and clearly to our profit, as a result of they do, I believe, maintain solutions to our personal well being,” stated Naylor.

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