Endangered pangolin curls into a ball as it is hacked to death

Endangered pangolin helplessly curls into a ball as it is hacked to death so it can be boiled and turned into Asian ‘medicine’ in shocking undercover footage

  • Pangolins are the world’s most-trafficked mammal with all species under threat 
  • Scales are in high demand in Vietnam and China for use in traditional medicine 
  • Distressing video shows Indian hunters killing and boiling one of the animals
  • The scales from one pangolin are equal to several months’ wages for the hunters

Distressing video has captured the moment one of the world’s most-hunted mammals was hacked to death with a machete and then boiled. 

Footage shows hunters in the Indian state of Assam killing an endangered pangolin for its scales, which fetch a high price in Vietnam and China where they are used in traditional medicine. 

Quack doctors believe the scales can cure everything from cancer to impotence, but in fact they are made of keratin – the same substance as human hair and nails – and have no recognised medicinal value.

Pangolins are the world’s most-trafficked mammal, but new footage reveals that they are also hunted in eastern Indian for their scales

The scales are highly prized in Vietnam and China for use in traditional medicine, with quack doctors claiming they can cure everything from cancer to impotence

The video was captured by an undercover researcher from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford.

Academics were studying traditional hunting practices in the state of Assam when they recorded footage of a pangolin hunt.

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Researchers spoke with 140 hunters who told them that pangolins are especially prized because they can fetch the equivalent of four months’ salary for a single kill.

But the locals were unaware of the wider black market trade in pangolin scales or where their products will eventually end up, the study found.

In the video, hunters can be seen hacking apart a tree where a pangolin has been found hiding, before attempting to pull it out by its tail. 

Pangolins’ instinct is to curl up into a ball when threatened, making them easy to transport and is one of the reasons they are so trafficked

For Indian hunters the animals make an appealing kill because they can earn four months’ wages from a single animal

Once the pangolin has been killed it is boiled to remove the scales, which are then sold on to the black market and make their way to Asia

When that fails, they light a fire and fill the tree with smoke, causing the suffocating animal to drop out of its hiding place. 

Picking it up by its tail, they drag it into the middle of a clearing before hacking at its neck with a machete.

Despite several brutal blows the pangolin appears to still be alive – though badly bleeding – as the hunters carry it to a pot of boiling water and drop it in. 

After several minutes in the pot the animal’s corpse is pulled out and the precious scales are peeled away.

Lead researcher Dr Neil D’Cruze said: ‘Suffocated with smoke, beaten and boiled alive – this is a terrifying ordeal and pangolins clearly suffer immensely.

‘This footage shines a spotlight on how truly shocking the practice of hunting pangolins truly is. 

The scales are believed to provide cures for all sorts of ailments, but in fact are made of keratin – the same substance as human nails – and have no recognised medical value

Researchers say local hunters seem to have no idea of the black market value of the scales, or where their products will end up

Pangolin scales are also used to make jewellery and as decorations during ritual ceremonies

‘Not only is this a major conservation issue – it’s a devastating animal welfare concern. If we want to protect pangolins from pain and suffering in the countries they come from, we need to tackle the illegal poaching trade.’

Professor David Macdonald, added: ‘Increasing demand driven by traditional Asian medicine is making pangolins a lucrative catch. 

‘It’s easy to see why they are being commercially exploited, as scales from just one pangolin can offer a life changing sum of money for people in these communities, but it’s in no way sustainable. 

‘Wild pangolin numbers are beginning to plummet.’

Reliable estimates of how many pangolins remain in the wild are lacking, although it is thought that over a million individual pangolins were taken from the wild between 2000, and 2013. 

There are eight species of pangolin, all of which are considered threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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