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Pangolins

Pangolins on the Brink

Pangolin on branch

It may come as a surprise to most people that the world’s most illegally traded mammal — far surpassing the poaching and trafficking rates of elephants, rhinos and other high-profile species — is a solitary, nocturnal, scale-covered creature they’ve likely never heard of: the pangolin, commonly known as the “scaly anteater.”

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Is the Illegal Wildlife Trade a U.S. Problem?

WildAid CEO Peter Knights speaks at one of two launch events of WildAid's U.S. campaign with U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Following the release of a new survey showing shocking declines in African elephant numbers, WildAid and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have launched #StopWildlifeTrafficking, a nationwide public awareness campaign against the illegal wildlife trade in support of the White House National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking.

International wildlife trafficking is worth an estimated $10-20 billion per year annually, making it one of the world’s largest illicit trades after illegal drugs, arms and human trafficking. The United States is a chief consumer of wildlife products (both legal and illegal), but a recent poll commissioned by WildAid found 80 percent of Americans know little or nothing about illegal wildlife trade within the United States. As a result, travelers often are unaware that products they bring into the United States are prohibited.

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WildAid Vietnam Launches Campaign to Protect Pangolins

In Hanoi, WildAid ambassadors add cardboard "scales" to a symbolic pangolin at the launch of the new campaign / from left: John Baker (WildAid), Miss Universe Vietnam 2015 Pham Huong, Hong Hoang (WildAid/CHANGE), singer Thu Minh and comedian Tran Thanh

HANOI (July 29, 2016) — Celebrities and leaders from across Vietnam are speaking out to save pangolins, the world’s most-trafficked mammals, with the launch of a new WildAid campaign to be broadcast throughout the nation.  

Native to Asia and Africa, pangolins are small insectivores that are unique among mammals for their large, overlapping scales made of keratin — the same protein found in human hair and fingernails. Consumer demand for pangolin scales (used in Traditional Chinese Medicine) as well as pangolin meat have led to rampant poaching to meet consumer demand in China and Vietnam. 

Using WildAid’s proven strategies to reduce consumer demand for shark fin, elephant ivory and rhino horn, the new campaign features a coalition of celebrities, government representatives, diplomats, business leaders and media partners who speak out against the pangolin trade and urge consumers not to buy pangolin products.

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Hong Kong Intercepts Massive Shipment of Suspected Pangolin Scales

Three of 259 bags with suspected pangolin scales seized by Hong Kong Customs (Photo: Hong Kong Customs)

Also known as “scaly anteaters,” pangolins are small insectivores from Asia and Africa that are unique among mammals for their large, overlapping scales made of keratin — the same protein found in human hair and fingernails. Consumer demand for pangolin scales (used in Traditional Chinese Medicine) as well as pangolin meat have led to rampant poaching. In fact, the pangolin is considered by many to be the most-trafficked mammal on earth: All eight pangolin species are at risk of extinction.

According to a government press release issued Tuesday, officials seized 259 bags containing about 7 tons of suspected pangolin scales — more than the weight of the average African elephant. The scales were found via routine random inspection of a shipment arriving from Nigeria that had been falsely declared as “660 bags of recycled plastic particles.”

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Chinese Superstar Angelababy Speaks Out for Pangolins

Pangolins are small mammals sometimes referred to as “scaly anteaters” for their defining physical trait: large, overlapping scales composed of keratin, the same protein that makes up human fingernails as well as rhino horns. When threatened, pangolins curl up into a tight ball, a defensive posture that can protect them from predators — even lions.  

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