Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals on Earth, yet only 8% of Brits were aware of this fact, according to a survey by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

Ahead of World Pangolin Day on 17 February, polling company Opinium conducted a survey between 9-12 February on behalf of the WWF, asking 2,004 Brits to identify a picture of a pangolin and name the animal they thought was the world's most trafficked.

Only 8% of the respondents successfully identified the pangolins in pictures while 51% wrongly called it an armadillo. About 28% admitted they did not know the animal's name.

A majority of people (39%) thought elephants were the most trafficked animals on Earth and 17% said it was rhinos, while only only 6% identified the pangolin as one of the world's most endangered creatures.

A million pangolins have died in the last decade due to intense smuggling, yet, the British public was not aware of the plight of the mammal.

Endangered artichokes on legs

British public did not recognise the pangolin as the most trafficked mammal on Earth Lance van Vyver

Pangolins are covered in scales and feed on ants, which is why they are sometimes referred to as 'scaly anteaters', but they are also called 'artichokes on legs' due to their resemblance to the edible plant.

Pangolins are extremely popular with smugglers because of their prized scales, which is used in Chinese medicine. It is believed it is highly sought-after as a cure-all medicinal remedy for asthma, cancer and for stimulating milk production in young mothers. They are also consumed as a delicacy in certain Asian countries.

pangolin scale
A close-up image of a pangolin's scale ImageBROKER/ Alamy Stock Photo

According to, one pangolin is taken from the wild every five minutes on average and 288 are poached a day. That is four times more than the African elephant.

About 20 tonnes of pangolins and their parts are trafficked across the world every year, mostly to Asia.

There are eight species of pangolins and they are all endangered. Four have been declared vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. Two are considered endangered while two more are already "critically endangered", according to the same listing.

Pangolins have been protected under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) since September 2016, and China is working hard to fight smugglers, but the species remain at risk.

On 29 November 2017, Chinese Customs reported the biggest seizure of pangolin scales. Twelve tonnes of smuggled scales were found in an harbour in the south of the country. It was estimated that the scales had been harvested from between 20,000 to 30,000 pangolins.

In September 2017, actor Jackie Chan participated in a video to raise awareness about the illegal trade in pangolins.