They look like reptiles, all covered in scales. They look like armadillos, the way they roll up in a ball. They look like anteaters, with those long snouts and tongues. And they look like dinosaurs, lumbering and ancient. Pangolins are unlike any other animal I’ve ever seen. They’re distantly related to bears and dogs, but they’re in their own taxonomic family. And they’re mammals—the world’s only mammal with real scales. But when I met pangolins for the first time in real life, what surprised me most was their personalities. Tamuda was bold and stubborn. Luleko was shy and sweet. Both had been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in Zimbabwe and were recovering in the care of the Tikki Hywood Foundation , a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife rescue and conservation. Pangolins are among the most widely poached mammals —their scales are in demand for use in traditional Chinese medicine. When I looked into their eyes, it seemed that they were thinking no less about me than I about them. I followed Tamuda and Luleko for hours as they wandered around the Tikki Hywood rehab center. Each pangolin had a human caregiver who helped them look for ants and […]

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