Scaly anteaters are so in demand for their meat and scales that the animals are being poached to the point of extinction. Pangolins look like walking pine cones and can be found across Asia and Africa, but they are so popular on menus in Vietnam and China that all eight species have recently been upgraded to threatened. In fact, demand for the animals is so high that a thriving poaching trade between Asia and Africa has popped up.

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The scaly anteater is the only mammal on the planet with scales, which acts as a tough barrier to protect the cute little animal from predators, but unfortunately, that scaly exterior can’t protect it from its most dangerous predator: poachers. And sadly, that same protective scaly exterior also makes it attractive to poachers because the scales are used in Chinese medicine.

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Over the past decade, over a million pangolins have been poached, making them the most illegally-traded animal in the world. The Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin are the most threatened species – each is listed as critically endangered, which is the last stop before extinction. One group is working to protect the anteater and they say that the first step is to raise awareness and cut demand.

Via the Guardian

Lead image via David Brossard, image via Wildlife Alliance