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Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Sad pangolin

pangolin

Say goodbye to another mammal being sacrificed on the altar of ‘traditional medicine’ — pangolin scales are consumed as medicine, their blood is used in tonics, their embryos are swallowed as aphrodisiacs, and they’re just generally eaten up. They’re also incredibly fragile, and cannot be farmed; they’re all caught in the wild and they usually die of shock.

I have no sympathy at all for traditional Asian medicines. It’s all bogus sympathetic magic that leads to the slaughter of animals worldwide for absurd reasons.

Comments

  1. moarscienceplz says

    I have no sympathy at all for traditional Asian medicines. It’s all bogus sympathetic magic

    But, it’s all very ancient which means it must be real, and powerful, and, … and special, right? Right?

  2. says

    It’s possible you’ve read this far and still are thinking: Why does this matter? That’s a question — and I probably shouldn’t admit this up front — I found myself asking again and again on this trip.

    …Pangolins, like cocaine, are sold by weight.

    …As the waitress explained, with the poise of a “Downton Abbey” cast member, the staff would bring the pangolin out to the table live — and slit its throat.

    …”When I feel overwhelmed, I shut the door and be by myself in my own little safe world. Pangolins do that at any given moment. They just curl up into a ball and they are in their own little world in that way. Literally, they look like a little round planet.”

    I… We’re a tragic species.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Can anyone explain why the invention and widespread distribution of effective erection pills has not done more to stop the slaughter of exotic animals for ineffective “aphrodisiacs”?

  4. swampfoot says

    Can anyone explain why the invention and widespread distribution of effective erection pills has not done more to stop the slaughter of exotic animals for ineffective “aphrodisiacs”?

    This is doubly curious in light of the fact that China seems to have no appetite for enforcing western copyright or patent laws. So they could simply make bootleg viagra all day long and ignore the howls of Pfizer or whoever it is that holds the patent.

  5. Artor says

    “Can anyone explain why the invention and widespread distribution of effective erection pills has not done more to stop the slaughter of exotic animals for ineffective “aphrodisiacs”?”
    Because some people are ignorant dumbfucks, and they’d rather see the world burn than change what they’ve always done.

  6. says

    @ 3 Pierce R. Butler

    That is a very good question.

    No, really, super expensive and rapidly diminishing rhino horn powder that doesn’t do anything except destroy the population of one of Earth’s coolest entities vs. a pill that actually works and is cheap and seems to be ubiquitous? Is there something especially non-functional with wangers in Asia that the “blue pill” isn’t good enough to remedy? My wanger works just fine and I’m 60 years old.

    I have no urges to eat pangolin but do have urges to eat other… umm, tasty items without need of a serving of tiger bone.

  7. mildlymagnificent says

    I vaguely recall reading somewhere that analysis of some of the “ancient wisdom” powders and potions for impotence reveals measurable portions of the relevant pharmaceuticals. Wish I’d bookmarked it now.

    My heart just sinks at the folly and the pure nastiness of using rhino, pangolin, tiget bone, whatever, precious and beautiful, strange or unbeautiful, creatures for no good reason other than superstition and – let’s be honest – weird notions of wealth and power that let’s people think this shows them in a good light.

    (And don’t let’s get into birds’ nests and shark fins. Same ostentatious consumption of nutritionally marginal items whose only virtue is power and the cost of getting them.)

  8. terminus says

    From one of my favorite movies:

    Agent Smith: “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague…”

    As much as I’d like to deny it, Agent Smith’s assertion rings so very true.

  9. says

    My heart just sinks at the folly and the pure nastiness of using rhino, pangolin, tiget bone, whatever, precious and beautiful, strange or unbeautiful, creatures for no good reason other than superstition and – let’s be honest – weird notions of wealth and power that let’s people think this shows them in a good light.

    As opposed to the tens of billions of precious, strange, beautiful, unbeautiful factory-farmed animals killed for no good reason? In what kind of light does that show people? In what kind of light does it show people that they kill animals to wear them as shoes? Does your heart sink at the folly and pure nastiness of that? I’ll be overjoyed if it does.

  10. microraptor says

    As much as I’d like to deny it, Agent Smith’s assertion rings so very true.

    All species will behave that way given the right circumstances. The thing about humans is that there are basically no longer any wrong circumstances for us.

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    terminus @8:

    Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague…

    Independence Day has never been a favourite of mine, but I’ve always found it amusing that the humans didn’t act in a very human way (all noble and whatnot), but the aliens sounded familiar;

    President Thomas Whitmore: I saw… its thoughts. I saw what they’re planning to do. They’re like locusts. They’re moving from planet to planet… their whole civilization. After they’ve consumed every natural resource they move on… and we’re next. Nuke ‘em. Let’s nuke the bastards.

  12. Bicarbonate is back says

    Speaking of sympathetic magic, let’s capture PZ and eat him up so we can be good at science!

  13. microraptor says

    Proponents of homeopathic medicine occasionally try to claim that it’s a traditional Chinese medical practice.

    If only.

  14. unclefrogy says

    little blue pills don’t have a very erotic psychological appearance so the placebo effect is greatly diminished
    which is the main active principle of sympathetic magic.

    on the side track I am coming to the thought or realization that there is little reason for a space-faring alien to want to attack or invade us there is nothing here that would not be already available between where ever they come from and here without the need for retrieving it out of a gravity well. like in the Oort cloud or smaller planets or moons
    but I still kike a good space invader movie
    uncle frogy

  15. alexanderz says

    They’re doing the same thing to people as well. Only recently China has decided to stop* harvesting people for organs.

    As much as “ancient medicine” is wrong, I’d still say that the main reason for such intentional savagery stems from the perpetrators being wicked, thuggish nouveau riche that live in a wicked, thuggish dictatorship. Today’s Chinese are basically yesterday Russians, when Russian were associated with gangsters in sweatshirts.


    *Since China is a communist dictatorship, “stop” means “make sure this doesn’t reach the news anymore”. Which sometimes means really ending the practice, but often means just finding a workaround.

  16. Moggie says

    On a more positive note, that’s a really nice photo. The way the shadows echo the pangolin’s scales: good job, anonymous Vietnamese photographer!

  17. Dunc says

    Can anyone explain why the invention and widespread distribution of effective erection pills has not done more to stop the slaughter of exotic animals for ineffective “aphrodisiacs”?

    They are insufficiently expensive, and therefore do not signal social status.

    Somebody needs to start marketing really expensive boner pills.

  18. rorschach says

    Ever since I took the path to a more sedentary practice of medicine, it has become apparent to me that half of the male population of my area actually can’t get it up, and the nice man from *Erectile Dysfunction pill company* is constantly supplying me with thems little blue pills to give out to males to save their marriages. You couldn’t breed enough rhino or tiger to satisfy demand if you tried.

    Funnily enough, the one thing the blue pills can not do is get you interested in procrastination. They help if the brain is willing but the wiener is weak. But if the interest isn’t there, the blue pills don’t work.

    Incidentally and more to the point, this comment was written on a PC running an operating system called “Pangolin”.

  19. says

    Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not.

    Which is complete bullshit, of course.
    Only that most other mammals only inhabit small parts of the world and only ruin them for a very short time, usually diminishing their own numbers at the same time so the surrounding environment has a chance to switch back. Humans are very effective at ruining large parts in very innovative ways…

  20. pentatomid says

    Poor pangolin. Yet another reason I don’t like humans much.

    Also, goddammit, why did I start reading the comments over at the article? Bah.

  21. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    I have no sympathy at all for traditional Asian medicines. It’s all bogus sympathetic magic that leads to the slaughter of animals worldwide for absurd reasons.

    Word. Fucking winds me right up.

    @Rorschach #20

    Funnily enough, the one thing the blue pills can not do is get you interested in procrastination. They help if the brain is willing but the wiener is weak. But if the interest isn’t there, the blue pills don’t work.

    Candidate for the most ironic manifestation of the great Tpyos ever?

  22. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    Actually, that wouldn’t be a typo, would it? Freudian slip?

  23. yubal says

    If you take the use of animal products out of TCM, it still is absurd.

    Did you know that after child birth you are not allowed to take a bath for a month? Or drink cold water? Else there might be cold air crawling into your joints and cause arthritis when you are old.

    A slight OT: Ebola is having a massive outbreak in West Africa these days. Probably triggered by humans capturing wild animals that carry the virus. Worrisome, the Ebola virus might be spreading in the human population without further infections from the wild life pool. There are 100 fatalities in Guinea and Liberia so far.

  24. peterh says

    “To summarize the summary of the summary, people are a problem.” – D. Adams

  25. footface says

    I still don’t get why people aren’t just putting some moss or random gunk in capsules and saying, “Yep, there’s your bear gall bladder” or “Yep, there’s your genuine, certified powdered rhino horn” and calling it a day. If you’re willing to swindle people, why bother with the actual “ingredients” at all? You’d get all the (non-existent) benefits of TCM, without having to kill the innocent (and often endangered) animals.

  26. yubal says

    #27 footface

    Those ingredients are traded in raw to prevent “fraud”. Rhino horn is expensive and people try to slip in fillers to make a lot of money. Typically, a “pharmacist” buys the horn and prepares the powder freshly in front of witnesses. People only buy from a “pharmacist” who is trusted to provide the real deal.

    What I don’t get is, why the Russians don’t mine the mammoth tusks ad wooly rhino horns from the Siberian permafrost and sell it to the Chinese? They could saturate the market and drop the prices to a level where poaching (actually, it is the black market trader who makes the money, not the poacher) won’t be lucrative anymore.

  27. says

    Likewise, demand for pangolins, scale-encrusted nocturnal creatures that feed on ants and termites, is in large part due to a belief — not substantiated by scientific research — that their ground-up scales can stimulate lactation (making it popular with breast-feeding mothers), or cure ailments like asthma or cancer, said Dan Challender, an expert in the species at the University of Kent in Britain.

    Inducing lactation?!

  28. Dunc says

    @28: See my earlier comment about insufficient expense and the signalling of social status.

    You might as well ask why engagement rings have to involve expensive diamonds rather than other, cheaper, shiny stones. The expense is, if not the whole point, then certainly a very large part of it.

  29. Dan says

    Perhaps if we start the rumor that eating the fresh brains of Asians who use traditional medicine cures cancer, burns fat and promotes enormous erections, the superstitious would kill themselves off. Except for that pesky last one :-(

  30. geekgirlsrule says

    What happens to pangolins makes me cry, so I won’t be going over to read the article.

    In WA state there is a fairly thriving market for black bear gallbladders, for the Asian market. I am proud to have reported at least one of these poachers after having listened to him brag to his buddies about the easy money he was making at it in the gym.

  31. monad says

    @ moarscienceplz:
    Not just ancient, but ancient Asian. The second part is apparently important, because people here with no cultural connection to China still get excited about traditional Chinese remedies, but I haven’t met anyone interested in traditional European remedies like the great cure-all of leeches.

  32. shadow says

    @32: I can’t remember where I’d read it, but there was some report that leeches did actually have some therapeutic effect. IIRC, they were being used as a blood thinner. This was years ago, and I just googled “leeches medicine” and saw many hits for non-Wiki sources.

  33. jrfdeux, mode d'emploi says

    I was in a Taipei night market once and watched some guy with a lavaliere mic exhort to the crowd the wonderful benefits of drinking fresh, warm tortoise blood. So he picks up a live tortoise, maybe the size of an adult hand, and he SNIPS OFF THE HEAD with a pair of fucking scissors and pours the blood into a glass even as the tortoise’s legs are still kicking. And he sold the drink for the equivalent of US $75 at the time.

    The benefits of drinking this warm, unsanitized blood? Long life. Fucking long life.

  34. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I wonder how much of the bootleg animal parts decent people would have to poison (not even lethally) for FUD to accomplish what an absolute minimal of ethical sense and critical thinking clearly won’t?

    Or embed tracking devices and put the fucking drones to some good use (using drones has worked on the supply side, against poachers, from what I recall).

  35. says

    Likewise, demand for pangolins, scale-encrusted nocturnal creatures that feed on ants and termites, is in large part due to a belief — not substantiated by scientific research — that their ground-up scales can stimulate lactation (making it popular with breast-feeding mothers), or cure ailments like asthma or cancer, said Dan Challender, an expert in the species at the University of Kent in Britain.

    Inducing lactation?!