There are few environmental tragedies I find more puzzling than the decimation of the pangolin, a phenomenon recently covered by notable Microkhan ally Dan Morrison. Like rhino horns, pangolin scales are in high demand in Asian markets, primarily for medicinal and epicurean purposes. Yet there is little evidence that the scales work better than placebos, something that consumers with the means to pay for the commodity should presumably realize. The persistence of these kinds of myths is one of the real head-scratchers of modern human behavior.
Yet even if the masses suddenly came around to the idea that pangolin scales were actually less effective than, say, a couple of aspirin, the animal might not survive for the long-term. That’s beacause, according to this recent study (PDF) from Pakistan, there may be a large secondary market for the scales:
It has also been revealed from local reliable sources that scales of Indian pangolin are transported to two main cities in the country viz., Islamabad and Lahore and it is suspected that these are being used in manufacturing bullet-proof jackets. This seems probable in the scenario of terrorism in the country for the past 10 years where the demand of such jackets must have increased many folds.
I can find absolutely no studies comparing the blast-absorption properties of pangolin armor with those of Kevlar. But I find it incredibly difficult to believe that the natural option would win the day in that match-up.