Roy Exum: Pangolin Scales Seized

Thursday, January 5, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I’m willing to bet not many learned people have ever heard of an animal called a pangolin. Better yet, I’ll double-down that even more are unaware the little “artichoke with legs,” as they are called, is far and away the most illegally-trafficked animal in the world. So chew on this: Alert customs officials in Shanghai just seized more than 3.4 tons of pangolin scales, estimated to easily be worth over $2 million on the black market.

NPR’s Jackie Northam tells us, “The pangolin is about the size of a raccoon and (its pear-shaped body) looks like an artichoke with legs. Its head and body are covered with an armor of thorny scales, giving it an appearance of a reptile. When it gets scared, it curls up into a tight ball.”

The meat is said to be a great delicacy in Africa and Asia but it is those thorny scales that drive the Chinese crazy because it is believed they have mystical powers. Actually, scientific research proves these scales are no more than keratin, the same substance that is found in human being’s fingernails. The Chinese wizards believe differently so they grind the scales into powder and mix them with other herbs, elixirs, and potions.

Traditional Chinese medicine says pangolin scales can cure cancer, make men more “manly,” and heal all kinds of other stuff.

There is such a demand for pangolin parts they are almost extinct and last fall the mammal became protected under the strictest protections of international law. To get three tons of scales means that between 5,000 and 7,500 pangolins were involved in the smugglers’ harvest. The scales were hidden in a shipment of wood chips from Nigeria.

Nocturnal animals, pangolins have an ant-eater’s snout and one’s tongue can reach about 16 inches to get a tasty termite or an ant. One more thing: pangolins can spray a stinky substance like a skunk.

THE EINSTEIN MOMENT – If pangolins are under the strictest international smuggling laws, I wonder how a smart man could turn Chinese medicine on to an armadillo? Right now armadillos are only known as the “Official Texas Road Kill” but now that the armored critters have become acclimatized to our area, we could ship a pile to Shanghai. We could even sell them as pets!

* * *

Speaking of pets, you have probably heard by now that Duncan Hunter, a Republican Congressman from California, is in trouble for using campaign funds to transport his pet rabbit from coast-to-coast. It seems that one of our nation’s top lawmakers says the cabin fees for the hare was an oversight and has paid back the campaign funds.

Actually there was $62,000 in money spent that lacked proper documentation, including oral surgery, a garage door, video games, resort stays and jewelry purchase in Italy. There were charges to Albertsons, Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Trader Joe’s and Abercrombie & Fitch. There were 16 trips to Jack in the Box totaling $296 but a Congressman who failed to pay for his pet rabbit’s ticket takes the cake.

Incidentally, Rep. Hunter borrowed the $62,000 in a deal arranged by Joseph Ignacio Salas, age 85, a friend of Hunter’s father when the elder Hunter held the seat his son now has. Salas is known in San Diego for shooting a business partner to death after the deceased had an affair with Salas’ wife,

As you may have guessed, Rep. Hunter was quite active with the party’s attempt to scuttle the House Ethics Committee earlier this week.

* * *

“I SURVIVED YOU, 2016”

I have a glorious friend who is in a tangle with Stage IV colon cancer and to say she survived 2016 is an understatement. Her friends have marveled at her grit, her grace, and indomitable spirit. She has posted notes on “Caring Bridge” that go along really well with the prayers and wishes and hope that are showered on her each day.

Yesterday she had a post that reflected on the year just passed and it is every bit as beautiful as her heart is. Allow me to share it:

“2016 opened my eyes. I found out I was sitting on a problem - stage 4 colon cancer - a honking keg of dy-no-mite. (Well, that blows.) My instinct: "Inhale deep/exhale long, don't make any sudden movements, let everything go to black until you figure out what to do." Mentally, I fainted. When I woke up, I was riding on this wave of love and support. (Well, actually I woke up in the hospital on morphine with a vacuum cleaner-size hose up the whazoo, wanting desperately to check out.) People who know me well, know I am terrified of doctors, needles and humiliating exams, which is exactly what stage 4 colon cancer is all about. But soon the pain lessened, nurses stopped wanting to look where the sun don't shine, I got a port for chemo. I looked around and saw hundreds of people - doctors, nurses, my family, my poker chicks, my bookies, my creativity group, old school chums, neighbors, work buddies, friends of friends, strangers - all beaming up encouragement, advice, prayers and practical kindnesses. They cleaned my house, they brought food, they drove me to work when I couldn't drive myself, they took me on retreats, sat with me at chemo, bought my lunch, held my hand, hugged me for no reason, prayed for me, sent cards, made me laugh, until I realized I didn't have to do anything but show up every day and do the happy work of living. These people had me. It was - and is - the most profoundly moving experience of my life. I would not wish a serious disease on anyone, but if it finds you, just know it sometimes comes with a 22-karat gold lining.

So goodbye, 2016, we had some laughs. I survived you. Heck, I even thrived. Who would have thought that?"

* * *

Let 2017 be the year of the miracle.

royexum@aol.com

Pangolins are found in Africa and Asia. Like anteaters, they can stick their tongues out as much as 16 inches to snare beetles, termites and ants.
Pangolins are found in Africa and Asia. Like anteaters, they can stick their tongues out as much as 16 inches to snare beetles, termites and ants.

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