Pangolins suspected by experts as a corona virus spreader to humans. The reason, South China Agricultural University researchers found that the genome sequence of pangolin viruses is 99 percent identical to those found in corona virus patients.
Responding to these findings, Arnaud Fontanet of France’s Pasteur Institute who was involved in the study said that pangolins can indeed be suspected as a corona virus spreader. He explained that the Wuhan corona virus was thought to have moved from bats to humans via intermediary animals which were likely mammals.
This Fontanet statement might make some people who are not familiar with pangolins confused. The reason is, this animal has scales that make it often mistaken for reptiles. Reporting from the official website of WWF and National Geographic, pangolins are the only mammals whose bodies are covered with scales.
This characteristic makes pangolins that eat ants, termites and larvae often also referred to as “scaly ant eaters”. The pangolin uses its scales to protect itself from predators. When feeling threatened, the pangolin will curl itself like a scaly ball and release odorous fluid from the glands at the base of its tail.
Unfortunately, these scales also make pangolins much hunted by humans because they are believed to have medicinal properties. Pangolins are even believed to be the most widely traded non-human mammals illegally in the world.
The expert estimates that tens of thousands of pangolins are killed each year for their scales and flesh. The majority are smuggled into China or Vietnam, although all pangolin species have been protected nationally and internationally. At present, there are eight species of pangolins spread over two continents.
Four of which can be found in Asia are the Chinese pangolins (Manis pentadactyla), Sundanese (Manis javanica), Indian (Manis crassicaudata) and the Philippines (Manis culionensis). Meanwhile, the remaining four that can be found in Africa are the black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla), the white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), the giant ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) and the pangolin ground Temminck (Smutsia temminckii).
These eight species are listed on the International Union’s Red List for Nature Conservation (IUCN) with the status of being vulnerable to extinction to critical.