What could be the most trafficked animal in the world? Many would answer “elephant” or “rhino,” but the honest answer may surprise you. When I tell people the answer is a pangolin, the usual response would be, “What’s that?” That’s why I like to say these animals are the most trafficked but also the most forgotten.
These nocturnal mammals are covered from tip to tip by tough overlapping scales. They have a long snout, a long tongue, a rounded back, and a long tail. There are eight species of pangolin spread out over Asia and Africa. All 8 of them are protected by international and national laws. Two are even critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In June of 2020, protection for the Chinese pangolin in China got raised to the highest level, which closed the door to a loophole poachers were using to sell pangolins for consumption. On top of that, pangolin scales won’t be allowed in medicine, a big win for hundreds of thousands of pangolins who were poached for their scales alone in 2019. Unfortunately, pangolin trafficking is rampant in all parts of the world. Still, as awareness of their situation and their species rises, it will be harder for poachers to smuggle them in and much easier for us to protect them.
So now that you know a little about the most adorable pinecone of a mammal, why don’t you quiz your friends? Do they know who the most trafficked mammal in the world is?
Daniel, May 2022