The Wisdom of the Flying Pangolin

#Pangolin #FlyingPangolins #Covid19 #CoronaVirus #Mindfulness #SpeciesDiversity #Ahimsa #Animal Wisdom #WetMarket


Many months back, in the fall of 2019 I had a dream. I was resting on the shore of an inland lake, when suddenly three creature emerged from beneath the surface. They appeared to be winged flying armadillos, but not armadillos. They were scaled on the outside, and furry on the underside, they had long rounded snouts and piercing eyes. I did not recognize them.


They flew at me with urgency, and I turned and ran. They followed me and I could tell they meant me no harm, but they were delivering a message of great urgency. They flew alongside me and looked me in the eye. I did not understand. I awoke with a start, my heart beating and spoke to my husband of this strange dream. I told him how this land creature, emerged from the depths of the water, and had wings to fly. How it chased me and I felt it was telling me something, but what?

The more I read, the more captivated I became with this animal. The pangolin was so full of wisdom, so full of pain, and so in need of being seen more holistically in the world. It had been reduced to a commodity. It was defined as food, ancient medicine, folklore and magic, and as a way to make money. This species has been treated with such disrespect by people. Trafficked to the point of extinction in Asia.

My curiosity peaked, I searched the internet for “flying armadillos.” I found a band in Texas called the flying armadillos, but also a host of pictures, some of which were not armadillos at all. They were pangolins, an animal I had never heard of until this very moment. I recognized them immediately as the creatures in my dream, only these ones did not have wings. I began to study it in earnest, finding many news articles and conservation sites dedicated to their protection. These beautiful animals are in fact mammals and they had a story to tell. My heart broke as I learned who they were and the plight they suffered at the hands of human beings.


The pangolin is the only known mammal on earth with scales, and sadly, they are also the most trafficked animal in the world. While they appear more like an anteater or an aardvark with scales, they are more closely related to carnivores such as cats and dogs. Their protective scales are made of the same material as our fingernails and hair (Keratin) and these scales cover the pangolin entirely, except on their bellies. The word Pangolin is derived from a Malayan word, “penggulung,” which translates to roller. This makes sense because when the pangolin feels threatened, they roll up in to a ball, which protects them from natural predators (think lions in Africa). You can find videos online of lions batting around a scaled ball like a ball of yarn (the rolled up pangolin). If they have babies, the mama also rolls up around the baby pangolin – such fierce mama love. The gestation period for a baby pangolin ranges from 4.5 to 10 months depending on the species, and typically results in the birth of a single off-spring. The mama carries the baby around on her tail – how amazingly cute is that?!! What isn’t cute is the way these animals are being poached to the point of extinction. Of the 8 species, 2 are listed as critically endangered, 2 as endangered and the remaining 4 are listed as threatened.


A female tree pangolin (also known as the white-bellied pangolin and three-cusped pangolin), native to equatorial Africa, carrying her baby on her tail.
A female tree pangolin (also known as the white-bellied pangolin and three-cusped pangolin), native to equatorial Africa, carrying her baby on her tail.
The magic of the pangolin was not in its scales or in its meat, but in its story. It made me stop and recognize how we humans have lost our ability to know intuitively what other animals already know – everything is connected. All life is sacred.

It felt like this beautiful creature came to me in a dream because I had been praying for quite some time, that the Universe deliver to me an identity for my fledgling healing business. A business which had been growing for years, evolving from Reiki alone, to now Reiki, meditation coaching, yoga and breath work. This part of me that I identify as healer, that supports bringing others, animals, people, and things into balance, has been calling out for more space in my life. I have been listening carefully.. As I incorporate new healing modalities and strengthen intuition and my own balance, I have called out for the right identity to help me bring this part of me more fully into the world. It felt like this animal, this mysterious pangolin, was the answer, though not necessarily at all the answer I had been expecting or imagining.


The more I read, the more captivated I became. The pangolin was so full of wisdom, so full of pain, and so in need of being seen more holistically in the world. It had been reduced to a commodity. It was defined as food, ancient medicine, folklore, magic, status and money. This species has been treated with such disrespect by people. Trafficked to the point of extinction in Asia. Now it is being illegally poached and trafficked heavily in Africa. It is routinely transported across continents ‘barely alive’ and often times dead, back to Asia where it is sold in the now infamous wet markets as a delicacy, and for its scale’s which are believed to be ‘magic.’ All the efforts to save this animal were being thwarted as governments across China and Vietnam failed to enforce illegal trafficking laws put into place by conservationists. My heart broke with every article I read, and every picture I drank in with my eyes. Beyond the photographs and videos, I found beautiful jewelry, stuffed animals, story books and paintings dedicated to helping this animal. I began praying for the pangolin, for species diversity and an answer to the blindness of humans in earnest.


Young Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), also called thick-tailed pangolin and scaly anteater is a pangolin native to the Indian subcontinent and living on the edge of extinction due to illegal mass poaching.
Young Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), also called thick-tailed pangolin and scaly anteater is a pangolin native to the Indian subcontinent and living on the edge of extinction due to illegal mass poaching.
If humans continue on the current trajectory of never having enough, it will likely end with the critical ecosystems supporting all life on the planet being destroyed. Although many people know this, many more do not. I can’t help but wonder if the 2019 version of the corona virus was delivered to human kind to teach us to slow down. To think more about what it is that is important to the collective.

As I contemplated, I realized the magic of the pangolin was not in its scales or in its flesh, but in its story. It made me stop and recognize how we humans have lost our ability to know intuitively what other animals already know – everything is connected. All life is sacred. Take what you need, but only what you need. Honor and enjoy the beauty of the natural world around you. We humans, we are moving so fast, we have eliminated nearly all the white space in our lives to simply be. We have also lost touch with nature as we have been drawn further and further into our screens and contrived cultural structures. And without the capabilities to connect to nature and to slow down, and simply just be on a regular basis, we have lost the ability to intuit. To hear and follow our inner knowing. If we were capable of simply being and following intuition, we would see how the destruction of arctic, rain and boreal forest biomes are not only the destruction of hundreds of thousands of other species, but ultimately the destruction of our species. We would see how polluting the water and air is the demise of all beings, including ourselves. We would see how the destruction of a single species merely to feed our egos, to increase our status in our respective cultures, to make money, is inhumane. We have put so much emphasis and value on money, markets, capitalism, credentials and other contrived measures of status that we have become less capable than all the other species around is. We have lost the ability to just be silent, and to listen to our inner knowing so that we can live in a way that supports the collective peace, well-being and respect for all species and beings on our planet.


The plight of the trafficked pangolin is no longer a conservation issue alone. It is no longer the lonely and helpless predicament of the pangolin, burdened with the greed and inability of humans to recognize and respect the sanctity of all life. All species, all life, not just human life. To me what the pangolin is teaching us is that we are one. We are all connected. No longer can we turn a blind eye to the abuse, and complete destruction and eradication of wildlife and ecosystems simply because we ‘desire their scales’ or their meat is considered a delicacy and a symbol of status.


Pangolin in Namibia Photo Credit : Alex Strachan.
Pangolin in Namibia Photo Credit : Alex Strachan.
Perhaps the message from the species' suffering the brunt of humans, (bats, pangolins, bees, cattle, chickens, camels, and so forth,) is “take heed.” If humans cannot stop themselves, the planet and nature will simply do it for them. While I am no fan of Covid-19 or pandemics, if that is what it takes to stop humans from behaving so inhumanely, without any thought of the well-being and survival of other species, or the future of the human species, then let it be so.

The way of the human has become to march to the beat of blatant consumerism. Consume anything and all things, letting nothing stand in the way of acquiring more. More status, more land, more possessions, more pride, just more. There will never be enough, until there isn’t anything left. If humans continue on the current trajectory of never having enough, it will likely end with the critical ecosystems supporting all life on the planet being destroyed. Although many people know this, many more do not. I can’t help but wonder if the 2019 version of the corona virus was delivered to human kind to teach us to slow down. To think more about what it is that is important to the collective. To look at what we are doing individually, and as a group, and understand how that will impact the future. To step out of greed, glutton and rampant consumerism. To stop making the health of markets and pocketbooks the measure of our goodness, our status, and our success.


Perhaps success and goodness comes in a more humble package and takes into account all life on the planet. The health of the earth, the cleanliness of water and air, the ability for all species to thrive and live with happiness and well being. This will never be realized as long as humans, behave as the most wasteful and wicked of animals on this planet. We do without thinking. We do without feeling. We do without connecting the dots and seeing the big picture. The time as come to rediscover how each of us fits into the whole. Perhaps the message from the species' suffering the brunt of humans, (bats, pangolins, bees, cattle, chickens, camels, and so forth,) is “take heed.” If humans cannot stop themselves, the planet and nature will simply do it for them. While I am no fan of Covid-19 or pandemics, if that is what it takes to stop humans from behaving so inhumanely, without any thought of the well-being and survival of other species, or the future of the human species, then let it be so. If it takes a hundred pandemics, before humans can see how we fit into the whole, than that is what it takes. Let’s hope we can pull it together as a collective, and as individuals, to re-imagine how we fit into the overall whole. It is time to re-imagine how other species fit in as well. They are not there to be exploited – they are there to live out their days with the same happiness, respect and peace that we all desire.


A ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), curled up into a ball on the ground. It is also called Temminck's pangolin or the Cape pangolin, and is one of four species found in Africa.
A ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), curled up into a ball on the ground. It is also called Temminck's pangolin or the Cape pangolin, and is one of four species found in Africa.
The pangolin tells us our deepest well-being is connected to the wellness of all beings on the planet. It tells us we are not individuals but rather a single thread in the beautiful fabric of life.

I fell in love with this beautiful mammal, and the wisdom it offer us right now in this moment where the entire world is on lock-down due to Covid-19. When the pangolin feels threatened, it curls up into a ball, and goes inward. When we humans feel insecure, a sense of sadness or threatened, we also often curl up into a ball and shelter inwards. When we feel loss, emotional pain or unsure what to do, we often find ourselves intuitively curling inwards, both physically, energetically, and mentally. Pay attention to this – this is our instinct, our inner knowing. When we stop, move into silence and go within to introspect, we more often than not find the answers we seek. We have been trained collectively in this modern world to seek the answers out there, the pangolin is telling us in no uncertain terms, to look within. The answers we are seeking are inside of us. This is the wisest of wisdoms, as each one of us holds the answers to our deepest well being and our unanswered questions.


Why were the pangolins flying in my dream? It feels to me their message included that all of life is one. There is no ‘other.’ There is little difference between the beings on land, in the water, or in the air. All beings are calling out to be seen and recognized as one, and all of life is delicately and intricately interconnected. The pangolin tells us our deepest well-being is connected to the wellness of all beings on the planet. It tells us we are not individuals but rather a single thread in the beautiful fabric of life. Thank you pangolins. Your wisdom of sheltering within, seeking inwards, and the oneness of all beings on the planet is good medicine.


My tribute to this wise, beautiful and tormented creature, is to bring the pangolin and its story more fully into the world with my own small offering of healing and light: The Flying Pangolin. It is my honor to tell the pangolins story, over and over. Every time someone asks me, what is a Pangolin? Or did you mean Penguin? Or is that a mythical creature? Each time I answer I am blessed with the opportunity to share a little bit more about this animal, their fight for survival and the wisdom they impart if only we slow down long enough to listen.


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