Call it a "scaly anteater," "nature's backhoe," a "walking pine cone," or "an artichoke on legs." Remark on its scale-covered body or its impressively long tongue. But you best get to know the pangolin, the world's most-trafficked mammal, before it goes extinct.
The BBC reports:
While the media focuses on the plight of the elephant and the rhinoceros, the celebrities of the natural world, roughly 100,000 pangolins a year are being snatched from the wild and sent to China and Vietnam.
In both those countries their meat is considered a delicacy, and their scales are deemed to have magical medicinal properties.
Already there are no pangolins left in great swathes of South East Asia, so Africa's pangolin populations are now being plundered. All eight species are threatened with extinction ... Live ones are the most valuable. Before selling them traffickers often pump their stomachs full of gravel or rice starch to increase their weight.
In addition to poachers, pangolins are also threatened by habitat loss. They do not handle captivity very well, either, according to CNN, which notes the San Diego Zoo is the only U.S. facility that has one: "There's not been enough research on what pangolins eat in the wild to know for certain what their caregivers should feed them in captivity ... Yet they still have occasional digestive problems. And the stress of captivity alone can be fatal."
Check out the video below for a glimpse of the pangolin in action. Fun facts: it curls up in a spiky ball to evade predators, it has a mellow personality, it doesn't have teeth (but those claws, dang!), and it uses that lengthy tongue to slurp up more than 70 million insects each year.
Photo by Maggy Meyer via Shutterstock.