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Pangolin scales are not a party drug, say researchers

Animals, Mammals, Wildlife,

Rumors about the protective armor of the threatened mammal are debunked, as poaching decimates their numbers.

THE NATIONAL FISH and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, in Ashland, Oregon, is the first such facility in the world dedicated to animals—describing itself as “much like a ‘typical’ police lab except the victim is an animal.”

At the lab, forensics experts work to determine the cause of death of animals, to identify the species or subspecies of an animal from a small tissue sample, such as a hair or feather, and to help state, federal, and international law enforcement to determine if a wildlife crime was committed. If that determination is made, the scientists at the lab will also help gather and analyze the evidence.

Recently, four of the lab’s scientists dedicated themselves to testing a comparatively new claim concerning anteater scales—that they contain tramadol, associate narcotic used for pain relief that, like all opiates, has the potential for abuse.

Wildlife rhetorical person married woman Jacobs and her colleagues examined the chemical signatures of clippings of scales from quite one hundred pangolins and located no traces of tramadol. They revealed the findings in Gregorian calendar month within the journal Conservation Science and apply.

“There’s such a lot info close this unit,” Jacobs says.

Spreading rumors

Pangolins, the world’s solely mammals with true scales, ar vulnerable across their ranges in Africa and Asia by preparation for the illegal life trade. Their scales ar in demand for ancient Chinese drugs, aforementioned to treat everything from inflammatory disease to problem with lactation in mothers. though international change pangolins and their components is illegal, China yearly approves the utilization of some twenty nine a lot of scales—equivalent to concerning seventy three,000 pangolins—for business ancient medicines.

But beginning around 2010, native media reports in geographical area began taking drugs with a replacement assertion—that anteater scales contained tramadol which scales were being bootleg to the U.S. due to it.

Pangolin scales ar product of nothing quite albuminoid, a macromolecule that produces up fingernails, hair, horns, claws, and hooves. it's no scientifically proved medicative worth. Jacobs was doing connected analysis once she 1st detected the rumors concerning anteater scales being bootleg into the U.S. for tramadol. “It stunned US. we have a tendency to thought it absolutely was a small amount outre,” she says. “We hadn’t detected of it before.”

The forensics team looked into it additional and located even additional news reports concerning pangolins and tramadol. They additionally started obtaining calls from enforcement asking if there was any truth to that.

The scientists were already doing analysis on a way to use scales to differentiate among anteater species, so that they set to try to to a qualitative analysis to appear for the presence of tramadol. As they expected, they found none.

“This study is vital as a result of we'd like to own the science that debunks false claims of medicative use, particularly once species ar concerned,” says Paul Thomson, a conservation man of science and also the founding father of the non-profit-making Save Pangolins, World Health Organization wasn't concerned within the analysis.

Stopping demand

Jacobs’ hope is that repudiation this story can stop the unfold of demand for anteater scales as a narcotic and analgesic. It’s not famous what proportion this fallacy has vie into demand for anteater scales, however given however exploited the animals already were, everything ought to be done to avoid adding to it pressure, she says.

Reducing demand for illegal life product like elephant ivory, rhino horn, associated anteater scales is an art that conservationists ar still attempting to work out. dynamic consumers’ behavior is tough to try to to, and it’s arduous to live, however Jacobs has hope for stamping out the tramadol misconception.


If you’ve never heard of the pangolin, you’re not alone. Here's what you need to know.

Unlike traditional Chinese medicine, which has existed for thousands of years and is deeply rooted in historical and cultural beliefs, this notion emerged recently and seemingly out of nowhere. As such, Jacobs says, it “might not have that kind of same history attached to it that can make it difficult to change.”

“Younger, more educated people will be more influenced by [this] science- and evidence-based approach,” says Sue Lieberman, the vice president of international policy at the Bronx-based nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society—as opposed to older consumers whose entrenched beliefs about traditional medicine are stronger.

Promoting alternatives is one way to help people move away from using pangolin scales for pain relief. “There are many easily available medicines that reduce pain, which don’t require killing a pangolin,” Thomson says.

Learn more about the science behind this study and see inside the wildlife forensics lab in the video above.

Source nationalgeographic.com
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