Striped Hyena: The Hyena is often vilified – the sound of its cackle and the fact that hyenas are scavengers and carrion eaters further helped to intensify the mythological component surrounding the species. In folklore, hyenas are said to be the mounts of witches – when they stop to feed on carrion, the witches are said to feed on the soul of the dead. These beliefs often lead to immense situations of conflict involving the hyena. In India, hyenas are victims of mobs and often undergo extremely horrifying trauma in conflict situations.
They are also faced with other threats such as poisoning, habitat destruction, highway and railway accidents, hunting and poaching for body parts etc. Hyena skins are illegally traded and body parts are used in traditional medicine. Wildlife SOS has rescued several hyenas that were injured in conflict situations or highway and railway accidents, and have been rescued victims of poachers’ snares and jaw traps.
Pangolins: Last, but not the least in this list, is the Indian Pangolin. This elusive animal bears the unfortunate tag of being the world’s most trafficked species, with more than a million pangolins poached in the last decade alone. There are a multitude of myths surrounding this species, driving the demand for it.
Their meat is considered a delicacy and rings are made out of their scales to ward off evil spirits. Even in the wild, a pangolin will make use of its hard scales by rolling into a ball to ward off dangerous predators. The same logic is applied by those who believe pangolin scales can shield them from misfortune. The scales and meat of pangolin are considered to have therapeutic properties and are used in traditional eastern medicine. They are also believed to cure ailments ranging from asthma and psoriasis to cancer. India is home to two the eight pangolin species – the Indian pangolin and the Chinese pangolin. Both species are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and the Indian pangolin is listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red Data List, whereas, the Chinese pangolin is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’.
Wildlife SOS is consistently towards the protection of endangered species like Pangolins by spreading awareness about the animals and also conducting rescues from conflict situations. Our anti-poaching efforts are also directed towards making efforts to apprehend wildlife traffickers by working alongside enforcement authorities.
While superstitions can be extremely harmful to many wild animals, we’ve also seen examples of religious beliefs coming to the aid of certain animals by protecting and safeguarding their populations in the wild. Many communities in India life in tandem with the teeming wildlife that surrounds their settlements, and understand the importance of existing in harmony. It is important to understand that religious beliefs should be followed only when they lead to positive results, instead of the ritualistic massacres conducted in the name of superstition.