Also known as “scaly anteaters,” pangolins are small mammals primarily distinguished by hard, overlapping scales made of keratin, the same protein that constitutes human hair and fingernails. Found in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, pangolins are solitary animals that use their extraordinarily long tongues to probe for ants and termites in mounds and decaying logs.
All eight species of pangolins are at risk of extinction, with two species, the Sunda/Malayan pangolin and the Chinese pangolin, listed as critically endangered.
The pangolin’s scales, skin and meat are all highly valued, making it the most illegally traded mammal in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Demand for pangolin meat as a delicacy is high among the newly affluent in parts of China and in Vietnam.