- Common Name:
- Scientific Name:
- Average Life Span:
- 45 inches to 4.5 feet long
- 4 to 72 pounds
Pangolins live in many different habitats, including rainforests and grasslands. Four species of pangolins live throughout Asia: Chinese, Sunda, Indian, and Philippine pangolins. The other four—ground, giant, white-bellied, and black-bellied—live in Africa.
Solitary animals, pangolins are active mostly at night. Many live on the ground, but some, like the black-bellied pangolin, also climb trees. Like anteaters, pangolins have long snouts and even longer tongues, which they use to snack on ants and termites they dig up from mounds with their powerful front claws. Up to 28 inches, a pangolin’s sticky tongue is sometimes as long as its body, minus the tail!
All pangolins are covered in scales made of keratin—the same material as human fingernails—which gives them the nickname "scaly anteater." The pangolin’s armor is so tough that even predators such as lions can’t bite through it.
When threatened, pangolins roll into a ball like an armadillo, making them less than half their normal size. This helps them shield their stomach and face, which aren’t covered in protective scales. From this position, pangolins can release a stinky fluid from a gland at the base of their spiky tails to keep predators away.
All pangolins face declining populations because of illegal trade. In fact, they’re believed to be the world’s most trafficked non-human mammal. Their scales, like rhino horns, have no proven medicinal value, yet they’re used in traditional Chinese medicine to help with health problems such as arthritis. The scales are typically dried and ground up into powder, which are sometimes turned into pills. Tens of thousands of pangolins are poached for their scales each year, as well as for their meat.
Government officials, conservationists, and investigative journalists in Asia and Africa are working together to protect these shy, harmless animals. By revealing the methods poachers use to capture these animals, activists hope to prevent criminals from harming pangolins.
• A single pangolin can eat up to 70 million insects in a year.
• Pangolins are more closely related to cats, dogs, and bears than to armadillos and anteaters.
• These animals close their ears and nostrils to keep out insects while eating.
• A pangolin’s scales make up about 20 percent of its weight.
• Pangolins are the only mammals with scales.