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Most Trafficked Mammal-Pangolins

Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam (CNN) 

It looks like a ...

"Dragon,” I say.

"Artichoke,” says a colleague.

"His name is P8," a researcher says.

But everyone calls him Lucky.

If you hear his story it's easy to understand why.

Lucky is a pangolin -- a rare, scale-covered mammal, about the size of a house cat, that’s so bizarre it almost forces your brain to flip through a Rolodex of more-familiar images. It could be described as a walking pinecone or an artichoke with legs – a tiny dinosaur or friendly crocodile. The pangolin possesses none of the cachet of better-known animals that are hot on the international black market. It lacks the tiger’s grace, the rhino’s brute strength. If the pangolin went to high school, it would be the drama geek -- elusive, nocturnal, rarely appreciated and barely understood. When it's frightened, it actually curls up into a roly-poly ball.

The pangolin could go extinct before most people realize it exists.

Or, more to the point: It could go extinct because of that.


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