Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pangolins and Cheetahs

I love almost every single living thing on this planet - everything that is here has a special niche in the ecology and biology of this world.  (I will admit there are two types of reptiles that I have, and will, kill without compunction - the first is the rattlesnake, if it's anywhere near a dwelling or livestock; the second is the blue-tailed skink - its' tail, which will break off when caught,  contains a powerful neurotoxin that generally kills cats.)  Having seen horses, cats and dogs die from rattlesnake bites, and having one cat who was a special needs kitty after a skink's poison, I don't feel too badly when I remove one of those critters from my personal space.  - I don't go looking for these two creatures, but if it's near my living space, that poor creature is dead.
    Having said that, I was very saddened to read that the beautiful, lithe, and extremely speedy cheetah is on the edge of extinction.  Watching a cheetah move in it's natural habitat is a wonderful sight - the grace and speed of the big cat is amazing.  Sadly, the cheetah population is disappearing; the main reason is loss of habitat due to increasing human population and the expansion of farming and civilization in it's natural areas.  Cheetahs range across a huge area in their normal travels.  We humans thought the areas protected for the cheetahs to live in and hunt were adequate - but the cheetahs range over an area that is 77% greater than the reserves.  Cheetahs are extinct now in Asia.  In the Middle East, a thriving group of over 7,000 is now down to about 170 over 10 years time.  There are massive die-offs and much less reproduction due to the loss of food sources.  The same is happening in the six countries that have a cheetah population in southern Africa.  There is one other reason, though, that must be considered:  cheetahs as pets.  A pet cheetah is a huge status symbol in the Gulf countries of the Middle East.  Kittens are sold for a minimum of $10,000 apiece - and more than 85% of those kittens die before they reach the age of 3 months, once they are stolen from their mothers.   This is horrendous.
    Another animal in imminent extinction mode is the pangolin, or the scaly anteater.  This month, an illegal shipment of more than three tons - 6,000 pounds - of the scales of these gentle animals were confiscated in China.  It is estimated that from 5,000 to 7,500 were killed to produce this number of scales - and they have a street value of more than $2 million.  The scaly anteater has horny scale all over it's body; the scales of made of keratin, a protein that makes the nails of humans, and the hooves and horns of many animals.  But in the Far East, the scales of the pangolin are believed to be a curative for just about everything, as well as an aphrodisiac.  For this reason, the gentle quiet animals are killed in great numbers.  Now, every type of scaled anteater, or pangolin, is on the rare animal watch list - and every kind is threatened with extinction.
     Can't we humans learn to leave well enough alone?

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