Delegates from around the world met this week in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss how to stop the trade in endangered animals.
Representatives from 183 countries attended the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species conference, known as CITES.
The delegates discussed about 500 animals. The pangolin, or scaly anteater, was among them.
Pangolins are mammals found in Asia, India and Africa. They eat insects. Hunters catch pangolins and sell them for their meat and their scales. Some cultures believe the scales can be used in medicine.
They are the most illegally traded animal in the world.
While CITES often deals with the protection of large animals like big cats, elephants and rhinoceroses, it also pays attention to smaller animals.
One of the first agreements to come from the convention was to reclassify all eight species of pangolins. They are now in the most protected group of animals. This means the CITES considers them in danger of extinction.
John Scanlon is the CITES Secretary General. He said they used to call the pangolin “little-known.” But in recent years, Prince William spoke out against the pangolin trade.
Scanlon said he is pleased a famous person brought attention to the pangolin. But he noted that there are still hundreds of small, unknown animals that need help.
“But, we’ve got the snakes here, we’ve got the lizards here, we’ve got the frogs here. And some really interesting ones, the earless monitor [lizard], the Titicaca frog, the psychedelic rock gecko; there are some really interesting animals there that nobody’s paid much attention to.”
Dan Ashe is the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said it is hard to make people aware of strange animals.
“We’re dealing with things like the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly or the Houston toad. These are things which often the public questions, ‘why is this important, why should we save this?"
Jen Creamer is president of Animal Defenders International. She said even a cockroach has a “strange sort of beauty.” Events like CITES provide the chance for discussion of all sorts of animals.
“With certain species it takes time to realize that they’re in trouble.”
One of the species Ashe is happy to see thriving is a small fish called the Oregon chub. It took nearly 20 years to bring the fish’s population back to strong levels.
The Titicaca water frog is another endangered animal that could use the support of a prince, or even a movie star. The Peruvian animal faces the threat of fungal infection and predatory fish.
I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.
Words in This Story
endangered – adj. used to describe a type of animal or plant that has become very rare and that could die out completely
mammal – n. a type of animal that feeds milk to its young and that usually has hair or fur covering most of its skin
scale – n. one of many small thin plates that cover the bodies of some animals (such as fish or snakes)
psychedelic – adj. suggesting the effects of psychedelic drugs by having bright colors, strange sounds, etc.
predatory – adj. an animal, fish or insect that lives by eating others
aware – adj. knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists
reclassify – v. to reconsider an arrangement of people or things that have already been grouped by ways they are alike