Name: pangolins – or scaly anteaters – are an order of unusual mammals covered in hard scales. There are four species of pangolin living in Asia and four in Africa.
Appearance: pangolins are the only mammals that are covered with scales. Their scales are made of kertain – the same material that makes up hair and nails – giving them a passing resemblance to pine cones! When threatened they curl up into a ball with their scales providing a layer of armour to protect against predators.
Size: the different species of pangolin range in size from around 30 cm to a metre in length.
Diet: pangolins are nocturnal and their diet mainly consists of ants and termites which they capture using their long tongues. These sticky tongues can be longer than their entire bodies – with some reaching up to 40 cm long!
Did you know: despite their rare and secretive nature, pangolins are targeted by poachers around the world for their meat and scales. In Africa pangolins are hunted and eaten for food while local healers use them in traditional medicines. While in Asia, they are eaten as a delicacy and it is believed that their scales can cure ashtma and cancer. Due to this demand, pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world. Sadly, four of the eight pangolin species are now listed as vulnerable to extinction, two are listed as endangered, and two are critically endangered.
Location: pangolins can be found througohout sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in India and South East Asia.
Where TO SEE pangolins
According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see pangolins in the following places:
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Photo credit: David Brossard under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr