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Protecting Pangolins

These scaly creatures are in serious trouble.

A pangolin baby rides on its mother’s tail while she searches for food in a rainforest in Africa. Ardea/Gordon, Nick / Animals Animals -- All rights reserved.

Pangolins are strange-looking creatures. The anteater-like mammals, which live in Africa and Asia, are covered with hard scales that protect them from predators. But pangolins’ body armor can’t protect them from their biggest threat: poachers (people who hunt or fish illegally) who capture them.

But thanks to a new agreement, there’s hope for the endangered critters. Last fall, 183 nations, including the U.S., agreed to ban the trade (buying and selling) of pangolins and their body parts. Officials hope this will help stop the poaching of pangolins.

PROBLEMS FOR PANGOLINS

More than 1 million pangolins have been captured and sold in the past 15 years. Experts say the scaly creatures are trafficked, or illegally bought and sold, more than any other mammal.

Why are pangolins so prized? In some Asian countries, such as China and Vietnam, pangolin meat is considered a delicacy (something pleasing to eat that is rare and expensive). Also, their scales are used to make clothes, as well as medicines that some people mistakenly believe can treat many types of diseases.

A STEP FORWARD

Elly Pepper works for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group that works hard to protect wildlife. She says the ban is a big step in the right direction. Pepper hopes that as more people get to know about pangolins, they’ll join the fight to save them.

“People are realizing that they’re just incredibly special creatures,” she says.

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