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Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world, highly prized by consumers in China and Viet Nam for their meat and their unique scales, which have evolved to protect them.
While they are a potent defence against predators, their scales are useless against poachers, and all eight species in Asia and Africa are now under threat.
Over the past decade, over a million pangolins have been illegally taken from the wild to feed demand in China and Viet Nam. Their meat is considered a delicacy, while their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine as they are believed to treat a range of ailments from asthma to rheumatism and arthritis. Populations of Asian pangolins are estimated to have declined by up to 80 per cent in the last 10 years. As they become harder to find, traders are increasingly looking to Africa to meet the growing demand.