Conservationists fear these endearing, armour-plated little ‘scaly anteaters’ may be overlooked because they are not quite as cute as some of the animals on the list. But, I think they are adorable – Just my opinion, of course!
I also love the way they curl up into a ball when asleep or threatened. In fact, their name, pangolin, comes from the Malay word, pen gguling, meaning “something that rolls up”.
Their bodies are covered in scales; only the underside, face and throat are left exposed. Once a means of protection, these scales are now causing the rapid decline in numbers of this amazing animal.
Another great feature is their prehensile tails which they can wrap around branches and hang upside-down with, like monkeys. They have thin, sticky tongues, longer than their bodies, which they use to gouge out termites. In fact, these wonderful animals are highly adapted to their environment.
On the down side, they are slow movers, short-sighted, hard of hearing, have small heads and narrow mouths. And, to cap it all, they have no teeth. But, they do have a great sense of smell. In the absence of teeth, the food is ground up in their stomachs with the help of the grit, sand and tiny stones the pangolin eats. Because of the very long claws on their front feet, they are often seen walking upright. They can even swim and climb trees. Aren’t they phenomenal!
Subtropical, tropical, deciduous, evergreen and bamboo forests; grasslands and agricultural land.
Provinces of China south of the Yangtze river, Taiwan, Hong Kong, northern India, Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Lao PDR.
What they eat
Ants and termites
The major threat to these animals is human consumption. The facts are truly shocking. They are being hunted and killed in astonishing numbers. Somewhere between 90 and 180 thousand have been slaughtered for the Chinese market in the past four years. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in most parts of China – unbelievably, even the foetus is consumed. The scales, which are made of keratin, are sold for medicinal purposes. The supposed cures they bring about beggar belief (cancer, weight loss and enhanced lactation in breast-feeding, are just a few). Large cats, such as tigers and leopards, have also been known to prey upon them, but, somehow, this seems to pale into insignificance compared to the devastation being wreaked upon the species by humans.
The Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is being eaten into extinction. These incredible creatures now need all the help they can get from us (ironic considering we are their greatest predator!). The species has now been listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered. In 2012 the IUCN created the Pangolin Specialist Group to “collaborate researchers and conservationists in developing techniques of conserving pangolin and directly combating the illegal trade”. This seems to be the only way forward.
“We should remember in our dealings with animals that they are a sacred trust to us…they cannot speak for themselves.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe