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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June 2005, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Anteater creates a stir in Dhaka
Bangladesh pangolin
The creature attracted large crowds
Police in Bangladesh have recovered a highly endangered pangolin - a scaly anteater - in the capital Dhaka.

The animal - believed to have escaped from a botanical garden - was caught on the banks of the River Turag by a man who reportedly tried to sell it.

The Daily Star newspaper said hundreds of people flocked to his house to get a glimpse of the rare mammal, which was kept in an iron cage.

Police say it will now become the first pangolin to be owned by Dhaka zoo.

Attractive leather

In an-ever expanding city where overpopulation and property development have taken their toll on wildlife, the sight of a pangolin is highly unusual.

The anteater is renowned for its razor-sharp scales, and has scent glands similar to those of the skunk which it uses to spray enemies.

Most species feed at night and sleep during the day
Pangolins roll into an impenetrable ball when threatened
Some live in trees but most are ground dwellers
The largest pangolin is one metre (three feet) long

Worldwide, most species of pangolin are considered to be endangered.

Their skin makes attractive leather for boots and in East Asia they are eaten.

Dhaka's Daily Star newspaper reported that when Mohammad Sagar spotted one by the banks of the river, he thought money could be made.

The animal is believed to have escaped from the city's botanical gardens, one of their last refuges in the country.

Mr Sagar told the newspaper he received an offer of more than $300 (20,000 taka) for the creature.

But such was the public interest in the pangolin that large crowds gathered outside his house to catch a glimpse of it.

Indiscriminate poaching

The commotion attracted the attention of the police, who arrested him and according to the newspaper "took the pangolin into custody".

It is currently at Mirpur police station, but officers say they will hand it over to Dhaka zoo on Thursday.

The BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka says that pangolins used to be found in large numbers in the country's hilly areas.

But recently they have become critically endangered due to indiscriminate poaching.

Wildlife exerts predict they will be extinct in Bangladesh within 10 years unless special measures are taken to protect them.

"There is a wrong conception among the people that medicine produced by pangolin scales can enhance sexual performance," said wildlife expert, Manzurul Hannan Khan.

"But we know that is not the case."

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