I have always considered the duckbill platypus to be the most unusual mammal. It’s semi-aquatic, the only mammal to lay eggs, and resembles an animal designed by committee. With a duck’s bill, a beaver’s tail, and an otter’s foot, some thought the early specimens were a hoax.
But now I have read of an even stranger one — the pangolin. Yes, I’d never heard of it either. It’s special for two reasons. First, it’s the only mammal that has real scales; it’s sometimes called a “scaly anteater” as it subsists mostly on ants and termites. Second, it’s critically endangered, with meat that’s considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam. Plus the scales are used to make traditional medicine. As a result, it’s the most trafficked mammal in the world; more than a million have been taken from the wild in the past decade.
But the pangolin is now getting some help. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (something else I didn’t know existed) has just authorized a trade ban for all eight species of Asian and African pangolins.
Which is really good news. An animal this unique deserves all the help it can get.