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Why Google’s Valentine’s Day game is a lot darker than you think

General February 13, 2017

Why Google's Valentine's Day game is a lot darker than you thinkHop over to Google.com, and you'll see a pair of enamored pangolins prepping for Valentine's Day this week. Press play, and you can help the cute scaly mammals fall in love. Perhaps you'll feel whimsical, or even a little happy. Consider this your dose of cold, hard reality: The pangolin — a nocturnal, cat-sized anteater — is rolling toward extinction.  SEE ALSO: Giant rats could help fight wildlife smuggling in Africa Put another way, pangolins are "literally being eaten out of existence," according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Native to Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the termite-eating pangolins are thought to be the most trafficked animals in the world. Their meat is considered a luxury food in many cultures, and their scales are a common ingredient in traditional Asian medicines. Image: Google All eight pangolin species are now threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Two species in particular are listed as critically endangered. Google launched its first pangolin game on Feb. 11 and will add new levels through Valentine's Day on Feb. 14. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world. Find out how to help them through today’s Google Doodle! https://t.co/irPpcwxgvM pic.twitter.com/wpm3TjD6cV — WWF (@WWF) February 13, 2017 In the Google game, a red pangolin rolls across the landscape to find its blue partner.  In real life, pangolins do roll up into balls, but they do so in order to protect themselves from predators; their scaly exteriors fight off gnashing fangs.  Pretty cool, right? Well… This ball-rolling move also makes it easier for poachers to snatch pangolins in the wild. Wildlife experts estimate that more than 1 million pangolins have been illegally traded in the past decade, despite national and international efforts to crack down on poaching. But don't despair. Conservationists say there is still time to save the pangolin. A non-profit in Tanzania is turning rats into sniffing sleuths that can detect trafficked animal parts — including pangolin meat and scales — in shipments from Africa to Asia. In October, a treaty involving 180 countries and conservation groups signed an agreement to end all legal trade of pangolins and afford the eight species the top level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Google itself is involved in the effort to spare pangolins from extinction. The tech giant's philanthropic arm, Google.org, recently gave a grant to the World Wildlife Fund, which is using thermal imagery and other advanced technology to track poachers within pangolin habitats. BONUS: The world’s tallest mammal is now threatened with extinction


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