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The Directorate of Criminal Investigations has come to the rescue of one pangolin, an animal considered to be the world’s most trafficked mammal.

Pangolins are the only mammals known to have plate-like scales; when threatened, they roll up into a ball, with the scales forming an armoured exterior.

The scales are made of keratin, the same protein that makes up human hair and nails, which hardens as the pangolins reach maturity.

With high levels of hunting and poaching for the illicit trade in their meat and scales – for traditional medicines in Asia, primarily in China and Vietnam – there has been a dramatic decrease in pangolin populations over the last 15 years.

Kenya is home to three species of pangolins; ground pangolins are found in open bushland, tree pangolins are found in Kakamega and Loita Hills, and the giant pangolin is found in the Lake Victoria Region. estimates that there are only 50,000 pangolins still in existence across the globe. There are no records of how many pangolins exist in Kenya.

All eight species of pangolin are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the highest level of international law. Hence the arrest of the three individuals.

DCI on Tuesday, August 23 rescued one pangolin, whom according to them was destined for slaughter. The three male suspects were arrested in Kinango, Kwale county.

30-year-old Pas Mwiti, 26-year-old Kabwere Tembe as well as 22-year-old Salim Nduria were arrested by detectives of the Serious Crimes Unit in possession of the male mammal.

According to DCI, the three were arrested following a tip-off by members of the public in Vivurungani village.

“Posing as well oiled businessmen engaged in the illicit trade of the world’s most endangered mammal, the sleuths lured the sellers from their hideout before pouncing on them and rescuing the animal,” revealed DCI.

However, according to the police, two suspects attempted to flee. In the midst of the commotion, the two also freed the animal forcing the police to not only chase after the pangolin but also the human beings.

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