Which will go extinct first, Covid-19... or the pangolin? | Matt Mohan-Hickson

Hands up if, before this year, you had heard of the pangolin. I certainly hadn’t and I’m willing to bet that many of you still don’t know what they are.

Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 1:32 pm
A white-bellied pangolin rescued from traffickers Picture: Getty

Chances are that if you have now become aware of pangolins it’s only because they have been linked to the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan.

In fact awareness of the pangolin is so low they’ve been dubbed ‘the most trafficked animal you’ve never heard of’ with reportedly 100,000 snatched from the wild each year.

If it were not for the pandemic shining a spotlight on China’s wet markets it’s feasible they could have gone extinct before most people knew they existed.

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So what are they? Well they are the size of a puppy and look a bit like anteaters. They’re notoriously shy, have a tongue almost as long as their bodies and curl up into a ball when threatened.

Pangolins are also the only mammals covered with scales, which are made from keratin – the same thing as our nails. Ironically the thing that makes pangolins unique is one of the reasons they’re now threatened.

For pangolin scales are used for traditional medicines in China and Vietnam, while their meat is also seen as a delicacy.

The demand for the animals in south-east Asia has resulted in all eight species now being either endangered or vulnerable.

In 2017 an international ban on commercial trading of pangolins came into effect, but there is still a huge illegal trade for them.

Yet while there are, rightly, campaigns against the poaching of elephants and rhinos, awareness about the threat to pangolins is pitifully low.

And because they are so secretive there is still so much we don’t know about pangolins, so to let them disappear is unthinkable.

The pandemic has wreaked so much havoc around the globe in terms of deaths and economic damage, but by shining a spotlight on the pangolin it also offers us the chance to do some good.

We have time to save the pangolin so it would be a tragedy to let them become the latest victims of human greed.

I’m scared I’ll forget what my family and friends look like

It’s been nearly three months now since I last saw my parents. I’m not from Portsmouth or Hampshire originally, I was raised in the north-east and that’s where my family still live along with my best friends.

Before lockdown it would take about five hours to get home – now it feels a world away.

I’ve video chatted with them, one of the blessings of the modern age, but it’s not the same. A grainy picture on a phone screen isn’t the same as seeing them with your own eyes. We have no idea how long this is going to last and even if I’ll see my parents again before 2021. At this point I can’t imagine even leaving Fratton for months.

Euro 2020 in 2021 will be just like dear old Trigger’s broom

UEFA has announced the football tournament formerly known as Euro 2020 will still be called Euro 2020, despite moving to next summer.

It’s going to need a hefty bit of mental gymnastics to get your head around a tournament in 2021 being called Euro 2020.

Remember the Ship of Theseus game? You imagine the warship in a museum. Over time all the pieces of wood are replaced after they start to rot. The question is, is the restored ship still the same as the original?

Same applies to Euro 2020; it might have the same name but is it the same tournament? The players will be different, different teams in form – it’s a replacement not the original.