Featured Animal: Pangolin

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The Pangolin

 

The pangolin, also known as the “scaly anteater”, is considered the most trafficked mammal nobody has ever heard of. The pangolin might very well go extinct before even a small percentage of the earth’s population knows what it is and how they could have helped it.

 

Physical Characteristics

  • Size:  Can grow up to almost 40 inches and weigh anywhere from 4 to 70 lbs depending on species
  • Color: Light yellowish brown to dark brown
  • Skin: Overlapping layers of keratin scales which actually make up 15% of the mammal’s body weight
  • Life Span: 20 years
  • Species: There are 8 species of pangolin; 4 in Asia: Chinese, Sunda, Indian, Philippene, and 4 in Africa: Cape, Tree, Giant Ground, Long-tail.

 

 Location and Habitat

Pangolins are found throughout Africa and Southeast Asia. They can live in a wide range of habitats from savannah grasslands to tropical and flooded forests. They pretty much live anywhere there is a large number of ants and termites which are the main source of the pangolin diet.

Pangolins are nocturnal. They sleep in underground burrows or trees all day depending on where they are located. At night they come out to forage for tasty invertebrates.

 

Threats

Pangolin poaching has increased substantially over the past decade. A reported 1 million Pangolins were taken from the wild in the last 10 years for various reasons. All 8 species are on the endangered list ranging from Critical to Endangered.

  • Meat Trade: Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam. Many of these rare mammals are captured and killed later for the dinner table. Pangolin meat is a common dish for people living in the African bush as well.
  • Medicinal Purposes: Pangolin scales are made out of keratin. This particular fibrous protein has been used as a cure all for many. It’s the reason rhinos are being poached at such a rapid rate too. The fact is keratin doesn’t cure anything! It’s the same fiber that makes up our nails and hair, but for some reason there are parts of the world (mainly China and Southeast Asia) that think keratin from pangolin scales or rhino horn will cure numerous ailments. Sounds kind of crazy right, but wait until you read the next one….
  • Magical Purposes: Sometimes people can be very superstitious. Pangolin scales are said to have powers to ward off evil spirits and witchcraft. They have been sacrificed for rainmaking ceremonies and buried near human dwellings to control it’s inhabitants. Seriously!

 

How Can You Help

  • Support Pangolin Research and Conservation: There are plenty of organizations out there working hard to protect this rare mammal. Our donations help keep them up and running. Here is a list of pangolin conservation groups:

Pangolin Specialist Group

Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity

Education for Nature-Vietnam

  • Don’t Buy Pangolin Products: I know most of you are saying, “I would never buy such a thing,” but there could be something lurking around that you didn’t know about. Check the ingredients when buying any product. What you find may surprise you.
  • Spread the Word: The more people know, the better! There are plenty of animal lovers out there that have never heard of the pangolin, but once they hear how this rare mammal is endangered, they will jump at the opportunity to help out. Tell your friends. Share this post via Twitter and Facebook. Let’s make the pangolin an animal celebrity!        

 

Want to help pangolins? Click the icons below and help spread the word. 

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