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'Scaly anteaters' in danger of going extinct because we're eating them

'Scaly anteaters' in danger of going extinct���because we're eating them

A pangolin carries its baby at a Bali zoo, Indonesia, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are the only known mammals in the world to sport scales. But people are eating them and using their scales for their perceived medicinal value, and now all eight pangolin species are nearing extinction.

Just a few days ago, officials in Vietnam found 1.4 tons of dried pangolin scales in a cargo ship from Africa, where four of the species are found, reports Scientific American.

The other four are found in Asia, where the appetite for pangolin meat and scales appears strongest. In fact, an estimated one million wild pangolins have been killed in the past decade alone, meaning they're the most-trafficked group of species anywhere.

Last week, the Red List of endangered animals upgraded all eight species of pangolin to threatened status, with the Chinese and Sunda pangolins listed as critically endangered, the final step before extinction, and the Indian and Philippine pangolins upgraded to endangered.

The four African species were upgraded from "least concern" or "near threatened" to "vulnerable," likely the result of poachers largely depleting the Asian populations and turning to Africa for more, reports the Guardian.

"In the 21st century, we really should not be eating species to extinction," one conservationist says. (Read about why Namibia is actually asking hunters to shoot rare elephants.)

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