Nature 141, 72-72 (08 January 1938) | doi:10.1038/141072b0

Chinese Medicine and the Pangolin


The pangolin or scaly ant-eater (Manis penta-dactyla dalmanni) is the most primitive of Chinese mammals, and although it is fully protected by law in the colony and island of Hong-Kong, the demand for its carcass makes more extensive protection in South China necessary (Hong Kong Naturalist, July 1937, 79). The animal itself is eaten, but a greater danger arises from the belief that the scales have medicinal value. Fresh scales are never used, but dried scales are roasted, ashed, cooked in oil, butter, vinegar, boy’s urine, or roasted with earth or oyster-shells, to cure a variety of ills. Amongst these are excessive nervousness and hysterical crying in children, women possessed by devils and ogres, malarial fever and deafness. So much are pangolin scales in request for these purposes that yearly the scales from some 4,000 or 5,000 individuals were imported from Java, with a value of 3,700 guilders. But recent regulations in Java, which prohibit capturing and killing of pangolins and the export of scales, will turn the attention of the Chinese medicine men more forcibly towards the native product.