Coronavirus threatens already at-risk pangolin

'Most illegally trafficked mammal on Earth' prized for its meat, scales and could be a transmitter of deadly new virus.

By

National News

February 14, 2020 - 3:22 PM

Biggie, a pangolin at the Brookfield Zoo, moves in his enclosure on Feb. 13, 2020. World Pangolin Day is Saturday. Photo by (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/TNS)

CHICAGO — Animal enthusiasts across the globe on Saturday will celebrate the ninth annual World Pangolin Day, designated to help protect what is believed to be the most illegally trafficked mammal on Earth.

Yet the festivities come in the wake of some bad press for this already at-risk animal. While research isn’t at all conclusive, some scientists in China have preliminarily named the highly poached pangolin as the possible transmitter of coronavirus to humans, potentially linking the rare and enigmatic creature to a public health epidemic that has killed more than a thousand globally and sickened 15 in the United States as of Thursday.

Now those working to save this intriguing, scale-covered mammal fear that anxiety over the new virus that originated in Wuhan, China, could further threaten the pangolin, whose eight species native to Asia and Africa range from vulnerable to critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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