The world's most trafficked mammal is probably one you've never seen before
Sunday, February 8, 2015, 12:59 PM - It may not be the cutest critter you've ever seen. But the pangolin is one of the most sought after animals on the international market. A fact that could very easily lead to its extinction.
Its appearance could be described as anteater meets artichoke.
Traveling low to the ground, it is a gentle species with large claws for digging, a long tail and tongue, but no teeth. One pangolin will feed on millions of ants a year, and stores stones inside its stomach that break up anything it eats.
The pangolin is the only mammal to have a body entirely covered in scales.
It winds itself up into a tight ball as a form of defense against potential predators.
Outside of the animal kingdom, the odd-looking creature faces one singular enemy -- hungry humans.
About 100,000 pangolins are taken from the wild each year in China and Vietnam, where the meat of the animal is considered a delicacy in many high-end restaurants.
In Hanoi, a dish of pangolin meat could cost you up to $250 a plate.
Pangolin scales are sold in specialty shops for upwards of $1,500 per kilo -- as a rare but illegal natural remedy for a plethora of ailments.
A sign of wealth and status within Vietnamese culture, the dinner table may be the only place left to find a pangolin in the near future.
Pangolins can be found in only six zoos around the world, and rarely survive in captivity.
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