Why This Unexpected Animal Is The World's Most Trafficked

Pangolins are traded for their scales, which are used in traditional medicines

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Wildlife trafficking is the world's second largest black market, and there is one animal that is trafficked more than any other. Pangolin, a scale-covered mammal native to parts of Africa and Asia, is believed to be the most trafficked mammal in the world. But why is this strange animal in such high demand? A video by Cheddar explains.

There are eight species of pangolins, four in Asia and four in Africa. All of them are protected by international treaty, while two are endangered, according to CNN. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), more than a million pangolins were poached in the decade prior to 2014.

Pangolins are traded for their scales, which are used in traditional medicines. They are the only mammal covered entirely in scales - a defense mechanism that works well in the wild, but is no match for humans. In April this year, Singapore police found 14 tons of pangolin scales hidden in a shipping container en route to Vietnam from Nigeria. The scales have an estimated worth of $39 million.

The main demand for pangolin scales is from Asia. In Vietnam and China, their meat is prized, while their scales are used for medicinal purposes. In traditional Chinese medicine, they have been used for thousands of years. Some cultures believe that pangolin scales can cure cancer and increase lactation in women.

Poached pangolins are treated abysmally in captivity, where they are killed for their scales after they are smoked out of trees, boiled alive and drained of their blood.

Today, efforts are being made to raise awareness about illegal pangolin trade through Internet campaigns and commercials, like this one featuring Jackie Chan.

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