Poaching isn’t limited to big-game animals: The adorable pangolin are the most-trafficked mammals in the world. And you’ve probably never heard of them.The apparent love child of an anteater and an artichoke, this shy creature’s large keratin scales act as a suit of armor against natural predators.Pangolin (pang-gah-lin) are quick to curl into a ball when threatened. But there is one beast they aren’t able to protect themselves against: humans.Between 2006 and 2015, it’s estimated poachers hunted more than 1.1 million pangolins in tropical Asia and sub-saharan Africa, selling their scales and body parts for food, medicine, and ornamentation.One of the more popular types of African bushmeat, pangolins are also a source of traditional and folk medicine, used to treat everything from arthritis and menstrual pain to epilepsy and stomach disorders. Some believe their scales (made of the same protein found in human hair, nails, and skin) can stimulate lactation and offer spiritual protection.(There is, of course, no scientific basis for any of these remedies.)Like many other imperiled animals, pangolin are protected by an international ban on trade. But when has the law really stopped anyone profiting from illegal bartering?In 2013, 11 tons of pangolin meat was seized from a Chinese vessel that crashed into a coral reef in the Philippines. Three years later, an Indonesian man was arrested when police seized 650-plus scaly anteaters hidden in freezers on his property.Similar threats are reported in various African countries, as well.All eight remaining species of pangolin are classified by the IUCN as threatened with extinction; four (Phataginus tetradactyla, P. tricuspis, Smutsia gigantea, and S. temminckii) are vulnerable, two (Manis crassicaudata and M. culionensis) are endangered, and two (M. pentadactyla and M. javanica) are critically endangered.Attempts to reproduce the mammals in captivity are often unsuccessful due to complications with disease and infection, which can lead to an early death.There is some hope, however, for the cute creatures: Researchers were able to improve artificial habitats to allow for preproduction, and in April 2015, two adult captive Malayan pangolin gave birth to one healthy cub at the Chongqing Normal University in China.