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China Drives Pangolins to Brink of Extinction; Armored Mammals Sold on Black Market as Delicacy, Medicine

This photograph taken on December 14, 2018 shows veterinary staff examining a sunda pangolin in the wildlife healthcare and research centre at Singapore Zoo. (Credit: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images)

The shopkeeper quickly scanned the traditional Chinese medicine market, looking for undercover police before she unlocked a desk drawer and dug out what looked like a clam shell, palm-sized and coffee-brown.

“It cures cancer,” she said.

The contraband was a scale from a pangolin, an armored anteater that looks a cross between an artichoke and a Pokémon.

A skittish creature that snuffles about for ants at night and rolls into a ball whenever threatened, the pangolin is now the world’s most-trafficked mammal, driven to the brink of extinction by poaching for a Chinese market that uses their scales for medicine and considers their meat a delicacy.

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