by Rita Goldner
This past month we celebrated World Pangolin Day. For that reason, and because a character from my newest work-in-progress picture book happens to be a pangolin getting a pedicure, I decided to dedicate this month’s blog to pangolins. Most people have never heard of them. They are sometimes called “scaly anteaters,” although they are more the size and shape of an armadillo. Pangolins are covered in a hard armor of scales, displayed in a beautiful pattern of diamond shapes. They’re the only mammal with scales. Their name comes from a Malay word that means “something that rolls up.” Quite apt, since almost every picture I’ve researched shows one rolled into a ball.
Their unusual appearance has not served them well. That, coupled with the fact that they’re nocturnal, thus rarely seen, has made them victims of the Chinese medicine market. Traditional Chinese Medicine (called TCM) uses the scales just like rhinoceros horns to cure a variety of health issues. Recently, pangolin farming businesses claimed that TCM using pangolin parts could cure cancer. This caused a sharp spike in their sales price, which was obviously the agenda. In the early 1990s, they sold for $20 to $40 apiece, depending on weight, but by 2011 the going rate was $400 to $600 apiece. Because of this black market demand, it’s estimated that between 41,000 and 60,000 were taken from the wild in 2011.
The pangolin is protected against trade by national and international laws, but it is still the most trafficked animal in the world. Research estimates that more than a million have been poached from the wild in the past decade.
I’m passionate about wild animals, especially endangered species, and love researching and using them as characters in my picture books. Since my audience comprises young children, I leave out the gloomy info about wild habitat destruction, poaching, and extinction. My hope for my adult readers is that they will use their buying power (avoiding products whose manufacture/growth impacts rainforests) and their voting power (voting with an awareness of world ecology) to help resolve these problems. My hope for my young readers is only that they learn to love these wonderful creatures.
Therefore, the pangolin in my latest book, Rhonda Rhino’s Big Flat Feet, goes on her merry way, giving her long nails a pedicure, and interacting with the other endangered animals in Sumatra. I expect to be finished and print-ready in a month or so, and you can share the fun illustrations as I make them by signing up for my newsletter.
Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water Cycle, The Flying Artist, and Rose Colored. To view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.