Pangolins are one of the most adorable, unique and interesting looking animals in the world. Often called the ‘scaly-anteater,’ these mysterious creatures are sadly at risk of extinction due to unethical hunting practices where their scales are used for human consumption.
As it is extremely rare to spot one in the wild, not many people are aware of the pangolin species, so we have compiled a list of interesting facts to introduce you to the humble pangolin.
Interesting Facts About Pangolins
- There are eight different pangolin species that can be found across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
- An ancient animal, the earliest documented pangolin fossils date all the way back to the Eocene epoch, roughly 35 to 55 million years ago, shortly after the dinosaurs became extinct.
- The name pangolin derives from the Malay word pengguling, which can be loosely translated to rolling up.
- Pangolins vary in size, weighing from as little as 1 kg to a maximum of about 33 kg. Pangolins also vary in colour, light to yellowish brown through olive and dark brown.
- These mammals are nocturnal and highly secretive, making it difficult for scientists to study them. As a result, many mysteries remain about their behaviour and habits.
- Pangolins don’t have teeth, instead, they have long sticky tongues that they use to catch insects. Living on a diet of ants and termites, as well as bee larvae, flies, crickets and earthworms, it is believed that a single pangolin consumes more than 70 million insects per year
- When a pangolin’s tongue is fully extended, it can be up to 40 centimetres longer than the animal’s head and body. Their tongues actually start deep in their chest cavity, arising from their last pair of ribs.
- Pangolins can voluntarily constrict their ears and nostrils to keep insects out while they are feeding.
Pangolins are covered in tough scales that overlap. Composed of keratin, the same protein that makes up our own hair and nails, pangolins will continue to grow scales throughout their lives.
A defence mechanism, these scales protect the pangolin from predators in the wild. If under threat, a pangolin will curl into a tight ball and will use their sharp-tails to defend themselves. These protective, overlapping scales make up a total of 20% of their body weight, and cover the pangolin’s entire body from head to tail.
Pangolins are one of the most trafficked animals in the world. Unethical and illegal wildlife poaching trade have made these magnificent creatures one of the most endangered animals on the planet.
Hunted for human consumption, pangolins are in high demand in certain countries where it is believed that their meat is a delicacy. It is also believed that their scales have curative properties, despite being made of keratin which has no proven medicinal value.
If the pangolin continues to be targeted, the entire species will continue to plummet toward extinction.
Hopefully, this list can shine a light on this special creature who is at risk of going extinct as well as a reminder of the many unique and unfamiliar animals that exist on planet earth.
Watch this incredible video that captures the pangolin protection and conservation efforts from The Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe.