The Grapevine

Why The Pangolin Is Being Blamed For Coronavirus

Covered in scales, naturally timid and known for being Prince William’s favorite animal, the pangolin is one of the most critically endangered animals on the planet. To add to that, it’s also been making headlines for its alleged role in spreading the novel coronavirus.

Blamed For The Coronavirus

Small, shy and scaled, the pangolin is sadly the most trafficked animal in the world since sources state that around 300 of them are poached from their natural habitats in Asia and Africa on a daily basis. This has put them in a critically endangered level, with their numbers dwindling more with each new day.

One of the reasons behind this is because the Chinese believe that grinding their scales into powder makes it effective in treating a wide range of illnesses, such as asthma or even cancer. But it’s not just their scales because their meat is also famous in Chinese exotic markets, creating a demand that would only reduce their numbers.

Unfortunately, one of the markets where their meat is sold is the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first came from.

Per previous studies, the virus had reportedly been transferred from bats to humans since it closely resembles strains of SARS that was proven to have come from the winged mammals. However, bats can’t be the source of the virus because there were none sold at the market.

This led to a presumed “missing link,” and after testing pangolin meat, it was found that the genome sequence of coronavirus in pangolins was a 99 percent match to that in infected human patients, hence the headlines.

Some, however, are not so convinced and called for China to release more data on the matter.

For example, University of Cambridge expert Professor James Wood  said that the meat might have been infected in a “highly infected environment,” while others state that it will be difficult to really trace the virus source if the illegal animal trade is found to be the cause of the outbreak.

As for pangolins, the animals have always been cruelly mistreated, and are on the verge of extinction because of unchecked human activities.

8206934763_637f8c5e6d_c The pangolin is one of the most mistreated animals in the entire world, and are critically endangered because of it. Photo by Romana Klee via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)