Pangolins are the only mammal in the world to be covered from head to toe in scales.
The name ‘Pangolin’ comes from the Malay word ‘penggulung’ or ‘roller’ as Pangolins curl into a defensive ball to protect themselves from predators.
Their most distinctive feature is the sheet of overlapping scales covering their backs. Made from keratin (just like our hair and nails) and compacted together, these scales provide vital protection against predators.
Pangolins feed on insects, mostly ants and termites, and an adult Pangolin can eat 70 million insects every year, making them one of nature’s best pest controllers!
Pangolins live in a range of habitats, including tropical forests and savannah grasslands – wherever there are large numbers of ants and termites!
They typically creep along on two or four limbs but can run surprisingly fast when necessary
Pangolins have poor eyesight and hearing, so they most likely use their sense of smell to find insects before digging them out using their powerful claws and collecting them using their long, sticky tongues.
They are able to close their ears and nostrils using special muscles to prevent insects from crawling inside when they are feeding.
Despite having been around for almost 80 million years, they are now endangered, largely due to their dubious honor of being the most trafficked mammal in the world. An estimated 195,000 Pangolins were taken from the wild in 2019 alone.
There are eight different Pangolin species, four living in Asia and four in Africa. They are all Vulnerable to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.
It is almost impossible to keep pangolins in captivity, even for conservation purposes, as they are incredibly sensitive and will refuse to eat or drink when under stress. This means that every single pangolin on the black market has come from the wild – over a million since 2000. In 2016, Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species