Pangolins and Covid-19

July 8, 2020

You’ve probably heard the rumours that pangolins are carriers of the same Covid-19 virus that swept ‘cross the world. Well, listen up. I’ll say it as straight ‘n clear as the gin in my glass:

Pangolins should not be blamed for the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s time to settle the score, once and for all, hey?

Pango here, writin’ to ya from the bush in my home of South Africa. I’ve been hearing these rumours for months now and I gotta say, you human folk like to give us a hard time, don’t ya?

Bad enough we’re the most illegally traded mammal in the wild, eaten to near-extinction and hunted for Chinese medicine, now our reputation is on the line too. Can’t a mammal catch a break?

Yah, it’s true that pangolins carry a type of coronavirus. I hold my claws up to that one. But the cold hard facts, published by Nature, show the virus found in pangolins is between 88-92% similar to the virus found in humans. So, it’s not certain it was a pangolin, or which animal, it originated.

What we do know, though, is the pandemic started in a wet market in Wuhan, China. The market in question, also traded animals – both dead and alive. Some are slaughtered there n’ then, some taken away in cages.

Popular in China and other parts of Asia, wet markets that trade wildlife have a greater risk of viruses jumping from species to species, including humans. That’s right, viruses don’t discriminate.

It’s down to the – to say it kindly – questionable regulations, unethical treatment of animals and poor hygiene standards inside wet markets… and that’s coming from a creature that sleeps in the dirt.

National Geographic said it right:

“Buying, selling, and slaughtering wild animals for food is one way an animal-borne disease may infect people. Viruses can spread more easily if animals in markets are sick or kept in dirty, cramped conditions, such as in stacked cages. When animals are under duress, viral pathogens can intermingle, swap bits of their genetic code, and perhaps mutate in ways that make them more transmissible between species. In the case of respiratory diseases, such as COVID-19, the virus can jump to food handlers or customers through exposure to an animal’s bodily fluids.”

Pretty nasty stuff, hey?

What I’m sayin’ is, the Covid-19 pandemic was caused by the trade of wild animals, and not by the animal it originated in. And this ain’t the first time; close human interactions with wild animals has caused other disease outbreaks, like Ebola and HIV.

So, in case you needed a more urgent reason than the complete extinction of my species, the illegal and unethical trade of wildlife threatens your species too.  

Pangolins, like all wild creatures being linked to the virus, are harmless to humans when left alone in our habitats. Y’know, where we belong.

As the most trafficked mammal in the illegal wildlife trade, I know tragedy when I see it and the coronavirus pandemic is, unquestionably, a tragedy for humankind. My heart goes out to everyone whose suffered loss.

But my kin are suffering too and the origin of this outbreak highlights the ongoing tragedy for pangolins and other persecuted wildlife. Protect us, and you might stop the next pandemic.  

You can support pangolins like me by spreading the word and purchasing a bottle of Pangolin Gin.

Every bottle sold gives a donation direct to the good folk over at Pangolin Crisis Fund.

Keep fighting the good fight.