The Most Trafficked Mammal You’ve Never Heard Of

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“Inside a metal vault here in rural Vietnam is a creature believed to be the most trafficked mammal in the world,” said Crawford Allan, director of TRAFFIC North America.

“No sounds come from its cage. No squeaks or howls. A padlocked door creaks open to reveal an animal that seems far too unassuming to be traded by the ton. They call him Lucky,” added Allan.

According to, Pangolins, a rare, scale-covered mammal, about the size of a house cat, have two species of which are endangered and all of which are protected by international treaty. Pangolins are trafficked by the thousands for their scales, which are boiled off their bodies for use in traditional medicine, for their meat, which is a high-end delicacy in China, and for their blood, which is seen as a healing tonic.

“The pangolin could go extinct before most people realize it exists.” said Crawford Allan, “or, more to the point, it could go extinct because of that.”

The numbers are astounding. By the most conservative estimates, 10,000 pangolins are trafficked illegally each year. If you assume only 10% to 20% of the actual trade is reported by the news media, the true number trafficked over a two-year period was 116,990 to 233,980, according to