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The World’s Most Trafficked Animal

Despite being heavily protected, pangolins are trafficked more than any other mammal in the world. All 8 species of the heavily trafficked pangolin are at risk of extinction. The mammal is native to Asia and Africa.

Poachers chase the pangolins, smoke them out, beat them, and plunge them into boiling water .The animals are heavily protected and internationally banned from commercial trade, but they are still killed and trafficked — more than any other mammal on the planet.

Pangolin now have the dubious honour of being the world’s most illegally trafficked animal. They are being poached for their scales, which are in high demand by Asian markets for use in traditional medicine. Just like rhino horn, their scales are made of keratin – no different from human toenails.

Also known as scaly anteaters because of their plated armor, long tongues and favorite snacks, they are so unique they have a classification all to themselves, Pholidota. Despite frequent comparisons to anteaters and armadillos, they have nothing in common taxonomically.

How We’re Saving the Pangolins

Pangolins are nocturnal animals, so seeing one in the wild is tricky enough at the best of times. Understandably guides may also be reluctant to share the information of known territories in fear of these creatures’ safety. Having said that, there are some places where, with a lot of luck, it is still possible to see one of these endearing creatures in the wild.

African Parks rangers protect dangerously-trafficked pangolins from poachers. With the largest ranger force for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks provides safety and security for the wildlife and habitats in each park under our management, as well as the surrounding communities and broader region. In 2021 alone, our rangers conducted 193,581 ranger patrol days; 2,687 arrests were made, and over 26,459 snares removed across all the parks.

“Pangolins are very important in the whole ecosystem that we have… If you lose pangolins you upset all sorts of things but the sheer humanity of not looking after such a beautiful gentle animal as a pangolin breaks my heart.”

Ground pangolin sightings


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