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Pangolins Are Now Protected By the World’s Strictest Trade Laws

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The most-trafficked animal on Earth isn’t a species of rhino or elephant—it’s the pangolin. If you’re not familiar with these unusual creatures, they’re badger-sized mammals native to Africa and Asia that resemble walking pinecones. According to some areas of traditional Chinese medicine, their scales can cure cancer, which makes the pangolin a valuable commodity in Asia. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) recently made a move that could help save the vulnerable species from extinction: As NPR reports, commercial trade of the pangolin is now officially banned under international law.

The 183 nations attending CITES came to the decision Monday, September 26, during the summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. All eight species of pangolin are now designated as "threatened with extinction" and protected under the strictest trade regulations the committee can grant. "This is a perfect example of when the international community can come together for a species that truly needs help, and enacts strong, global regulations that can make a real difference," Mark Hofberg, assistant campaigns officer at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said in a statement.

Pangolins have long been hunted for their scales, and lately they’ve been receiving the same attention for their meat. The animal is seen as a delicacy by the Chinese and Vietnamese middle class, and in some cases it’s the dish of choice when celebrating a business deal.

When threatened, the pangolin curls up into a tight ball to protect its face and armorless underbelly. This might provided adequate protection against most wildlife, but it leaves them defenseless against human poachers. According to Hofberg, "This decision gives real hope that extinction of pangolins may be prevented."

[h/t NPR]

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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