Pangolins defenceless despite armour

Pangolin scales are sought after in the illegal wildlife trade, for traditional medicine. Pangolins and pangolin meat seized on Oct 26, 2016, in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, in Indonesia. The seizure contained 40 skinless pangolins, one live pangolin
Pangolins and pangolin meat seized on Oct 26, 2016, in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, in Indonesia. The seizure contained 40 skinless pangolins, one live pangolin and 1kg of pangolin skins.PHOTO: WWF-INDONESIA
Pangolin scales are sought after in the illegal wildlife trade, for traditional medicine. Pangolins and pangolin meat seized on Oct 26, 2016, in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, in Indonesia. The seizure contained 40 skinless pangolins, one live pangolin
Pangolin scales are sought after in the illegal wildlife trade, for traditional medicine.PHOTO: REUTERS

The very thing that keeps the world's most trafficked mammal safe from animal predators is exactly what makes it so hunted by humans.

In the wild, the pangolin - toothless, lurching around ungainly on its feet - curls into a defensive ball when threatened, protecting its soft underside with an armour of hard scales that a predator would find hard to sink its teeth into.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline 'Pangolins defenceless despite armour'. Subscribe