Pangolins, resembling anteaters, are heavily poached and trafficked for their meat and scales, which some believe have medicinal value. There are currently eight known species, found in equal numbers in Asia and Africa.

Through a comprehensive study of contraband scales confiscated from Hong Kong and China’s Yunnan province between 2012 and 2019, scientists have unearthed genetic markers not previously observed in any known pangolin species.. This genomic analysis has led to the unexpected revelation of a ninth species, christened Manis mysteria. According to Jing-Yan Hu, a co-author of the study and a research assistant at the State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resource at Yunnan University, the discovery of a new species from confiscated scales was an unforeseen development. This research endeavor involved a structural examination of 33 scale samples from various seizures, each bearing its own unique characteristics, with five scales connected to skin, three to claws, and the rest originating from pangolin tails, backs, bellies, or heads. This discovery significantly impacts our knowledge of pangolin diversity and evolution. It provides conservationists with a clear focus for protective measures. The revelation not only deepens our understanding but also highlights the need for intensified conservation efforts and collaborative action against the illegal pangolin trade. Dr. Aryn Wilder, an esteemed conservation genetics expert, praises this finding as crucial. She stresses that identifying this new species allows for concentrated conservation strategies, safeguarding it from potential extinction. Wilder emphasizes the urgency of tailored conservation efforts to ensure the survival of Manis mysteria and the preservation of its unique biodiversity.