When you hear the words, “endangered species,” probably the first animal the comes to mind is a lion or perhaps an elephant, whose futures have been put at risk because of wildlife poaching. You may even think of an orangutan who are threatened with extinction by the destructive palm oil industry of Indonesia. The animal you may not think of is a pangolin, but they are the most trafficked mammal in the world.

There are eight types of pangolin, distributed throughout Africa, India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Two are critically endangered while the other six are at risk of suffering the same fate. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that the Sunda population has declined by more than 50 percent during the past fifteen years alone. Under some branches of Traditional Asian Medicine, the meat, blood, and scales of these tiny animals are believed to contain curative properties – a myth that has sadly caused their population to dwindle. But we can stop this.

According to a Care2 petition, since 1990 the Conservation Law of Indonesia provides protection for the nation’s endangered species, including the critically endangered rhinos and the Sunda pangolin. According to the law, endangered animal traffickers are supposed to face a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of thousands of dollars. Sadly, those that are caught face light sentences or don’t face any sentence at all.

Please sign this petition and urge Indonesian President Joko Widodo to protect critically endangered animals in Indonesia by implementing harsher punishments for animal traffickers. Without true punishment, pangolins will still be hunted, killed and shipped to China.

With the newly released study published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences warning of a sixth extinction and calling the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation,” it is imperative we enact stricter punishments for animal wildlife traffickers. Our voracious appetite for meat and dairy – together with our collective belief that we are the most superior species on this Earth and have the right to exploit its resources as we see fit, with no thought for the needs of future generations – are hindering our own survival, as well as the survival of countless other life forms on the planet. The role that we play in species extinction is ultimately leading us toward our own demise.

Lead image source: David Brossard/Flickr