As pangolins come under the scanner as potential intermediate hosts of the novel coronavirus transferred from bats to humans, Indian wildlife conservationists warn that the States of Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand are emerging as the hotspots for the poaching of the endangered scaly anteater mammal.
A recent study, published in the journal Cell, had placed pangolins as a natural reservoir of coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2, the one behind the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another recent study had identified the presence of SARS-CoV-2 like viruses in Malayan pangolins smuggled into China to be sold in wet markets.
In these markets, pangolins find demand both in food and traditional medicine, making them the most-commonly trafficked mammal.
"The discovery of multiple lineages of pangolin coronavirus and their similarity to SARS-CoV-2 suggests that pangolins should be considered as possible hosts in the emergence of novel coronaviruses and should be removed from wet markets to prevent zoonotic transmission," said Ved Kumar, a former wildlife conservationist with Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and founder of Maaty Biodiversity Conservation & Societal Research Organisation in Uttarakhand.
Kumar told PTI that over the last decade, the demand for pangolin biological parts in China and other Southern Asian markets has increased due to their perceived medicinal properties, and value as a delicacy.