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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 317-329

Scarcity, Alterity and Value: Decline of the Pangolin, the World's Most Trafficked Mammal


Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Correspondence Address:
Alex Aisher
Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex, Brighton
UK
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.197610

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The pangolin, now recognised as the world's most trafficked mammal, is currently undergoing population collapse across South and Southeast Asia, primarily because of the medicinal value attributed to its meat and scales. This paper explores how scarcity and alterity (otherness) drive the perceived value of these creatures for a range of human and more-than-human stakeholders: wildlife traffickers, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, Asian consumers of their meat and scales, hunters and poachers, pangolin-rearing master-spirits, and conservation organisations. Based on archival research and long-term ethnographic study with indigenous hunters in the Eastern Himalayas, the paper analyses the commodity chains linking hunters and consumers of pangolin across South, Southeast and East Asia. It shows that whilst the nonlinear interaction of scarcity, alterity and value is driving the current overexploitation of pangolins, for some indigenous hunters in the Eastern Himalayas, these same dynamics interact to preserve these animals in the forests where they dwell.


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