Smuggled into China and sold for meat in the live-animal markets of cities such as Wuhan, the pangolin has dominated world headlines. Is it the vector for COVID-19?
Pangolins have long been sustainably harvested by local communities for their meat and scales, but today the burgeoning trade in these mammals has reached crisis point. Eight pangolin species occur worldwide, four in Asia and four in Africa, and all face extinction if current rates of hunting and trading continue unabated.
Now the spotlight is on the world's most trafficked mammal. Scientists have identified pangolins as the likely source of the coronavirus infection that has brought the world to its knees. This multi-trillion dollar disaster makes pangolins the most expensive meals ever eaten.
In this timely exposé, Richard Peirce unpacks the horrors and dangers of the trade in this enigmatic, little-known mammal. He explains the links between wildlife and COVID-19, and details China's response to the pandemic.
He also tells the story of a particular pangolin poached in Zimbabwe and brought to South Africa to be traded. Readers accompany an agent of the African Pangolin Working Group, assisted by the local police, on an actual sting operation to rescue the animal and capture the traffickers. And they follow the subsequent progress of the rescued pangolin, from near-death to rehabilitation and release into the wild.
Richard Peirce is best known as a shark conservationist and is chairman of the Shark Conservation Society and the Shark Trust. He has authored several books, including The Poacher’s Moon – an exposé of rhino-poaching. Richard and his wife Jacqui are confirmed nomads who spend half the year in South Africa; their love of wildlife takes them to the bush at every opportunity.