Slowly eaten into extinction, Pangolins are now the most illegally smuggled mammal
The IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species has been updated to reflect the sad fate of the 8 species of pangolins, a scaly anteater. All of them are now considered threatened to various degrees, with two species categorized as "critically endangered". Why are they facing extinction? Because their meat is in high demand at banquets in Vietnam and China and their distinctive scales are used in Chinese medicine (which is ridiculous when you know that the scales of pangolins are made of keratin, the exact same protein found in human nails and hair -- nothing special about it).
Pangolins not only have the distinction of being the world's only scaly mammal, but they are also the most smuggled mammal.
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According to experts at the Zoological Society of London, the demand for the animals in Asia has been so great that poachers are now turning to Africa, where four of the species are found. Conservationists say there is already evidence of an underground, intercontinental trade in pangolins between Africa and Asia. (source)
It is estimated that more than a million pangolins have been poached from the wild over the past decade.
The best way to help save the pangolin - along with regular anti-poaching efforts - would be to reduce demand from Asia with education campaigns, but that can take time and be expensive. Let's hope conservationists succeed in saving our very unique cousin in the mammal family...