The pangolin is an extraordinary dog-sized animal that looks like it would have been well suited for the Mesozoic Era. Covered with a full coat of hard, overlapping scales, it is the only mammal to have evolved such a defense. When threatened, the pangolin curls up into a ball, much like the armadillo. It is mainly an insectivore, feeding in the manner of anteaters.

Yet taxonomically the pangolin is neither armadillo nor anteater. It belongs instead to Pholidota, a distinct order of mammals comprised of eight different species in Africa and Asia.

Sadly, these rare creatures are quietly sliding into extinction due to growing demand. Pangolins have likely been hunted for millennia—In Africa, the meat is highly sought and considered a delicacy—but the global illegal wildlife trade has escalated what was once a moderate harvest into an existential threat.

Pangolins don't usually command the same attention as larger, charismatic species like tigers and elephants, but they, too, are being obliterated. In addition to their meat, there is demand for pangolin scales, considered to possess healing qualities by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. The demand for pangolin products in Asian communities is so high that staggering numbers of pangolins are taken from the wild.

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