A collective statement in support of saving pangolins
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Letter to the Editor: We are an international group of biological scientists, conservationists, and environmentalists who have been closely following the plight and conservation of pangolins over a number of years. Pangolins comprise the mammalian Order Pholidota, which contains eight living species found in diverse habitats in Africa (4 species) and Asia (4 species),which provide important ecosystem services, including providing “pest” control and improving soil quality (Chao et al., 2020). They remain the most threatened and trafficked mammal species in the world (Gaubert et al., 2018; Sarah Heinrich et al., 2016). For over a century, there have been numerous attempts to rescue and maintain these animals in captivity, but with very few examples of success, chiefly because they usually die of infection (Hua et al., 2015; Lihua et al., 2010). In 2016, the genomes of the Critically Endangered Chinese andMalayan pangolins (Fig. 1) were sequenced and revealed two important findings (Choo et al., 2016). First, to the best of our knowledge, pangolins are the onlymammals known to lack the IFNE (Interferon epsilon) gene (important for mucosal immunity), suggesting that their resistance to pathogens may be reduced. Moreover, we found that pangolins have a reduced number of the heat shock protein (HSP) gene family members, suggesting stress susceptibility inducing immunosuppression, more so than other mammalian lineages. These findings may help explain why captive pangolins frequently succumb to infection.