Pangolins are scaly anteaters found throughout tropical regions of Africa and Asia. They can grow up to one metre in length and have incredibly long, sticky tongues. They eat mostly ants and termites, digging them out of the earth with their powerful foreclaws.
When they sense danger, pangolins curl up into a ball – like enormous woodlice – and their tough keratin scales act like armour to protect them from predators. Unfortunately this provides little defence against their most dangerous predators – humans.
All eight species of pangolin are currently under serious threat, both from hunting and from rapid loss of habitat due to deforestation. There is a thriving black market in pangolin body parts for use in traditional Chinese medicine, which is helping to drive pangolins to extinction.
To find out more about these fascinating creatures, or to get involved in projects that are helping to protect them, check out the links below.
- The word ‘pangolin’ comes from the Malay ‘pengguling’, meaning ‘something that rolls up’.
- Most pangolins are nocturnal.
- They are solitary animals who usually meet only for mating.
- They are good swimmers.
- Many pangolins dig tunnels and live underground. Arboreal or tree pangolins live in hollow trees.
- Their eyesight is poor, so they rely on smell and hearing.
- Pangolins have no teeth. They swallow small stones which stay in the stomach to help grind up their food.
- World Pangolin Day is celebrated each year on the third Saturday in February.