Interesting Facts About Pangolins: The Most Endangered Anteater!

With its peculiar gait and armored shell, the humble pangolin appears more like an anteater set for medieval battle than a creature under threat. Pangolin is an odd-looking mammal which belongs to the group of anteaters with scales. There are 8 different species of pangolins.
Four of them live in Africa, four in Asia. They prefer dry and sandy areas, floodplain grasslands, savannah woodlands and rocky slopes. Many pangolin species are endangered because of extensive hunting. People kill these animals and use various parts of their bodies for the making folk medicines in Africa and China. Also, their skin is used in the fashion industry.
Illegal trade in South Asia has now rendered the scaly animals the most hunted animal on earth, with some statistics claiming that sales currently account for up to 20 percent of the total wildlife black market.
In response to the plight of pangolin, many campaigns have been launched to increase awareness, including the SavePangolins organization and an app, Roll with the Pangolins that was endorsed by Prince William in his role as the President of United for Wildlife.
Moreover, in 2012 Sir David Attenborough picked a Sunda pangolin, a species distributed all over South East Asia, as one of his 10 favorite species he would ‘save’ from extinction.
So, what’s it that makes pangolin very unique, and why they aren’t so popular? Below are some interesting facts to get you up to speed on one of the most endangered species on Earth.
1. They emit a toxic acid like the skunks. If it feels threatened, pangolins defend themselves by rolling up into a ball (their name originates from a Malay expression meaning ‘rolling up’) and, if necessary, lashing out with their tale – the scales on which can cut the skin of a predator easily. Also, they can release a noxious-smelling acid from the glands near the anus. Although it’s similar to that of a skunk, pangolins can’t spray the liquid.
2. When fully stretched, the tongue of a pangolin can be over 40 centimeters long and starts deep in the chest cavity. Pangolins don’t have teeth and can’t chew, however, they use their sticky tongues to capture insects – up to 70 million annually – that are ground up by keratinous spines and stones in their stomachs.
3. The large scales of pangolins are made of keratin, a similar material of which our hair and fingernails, bird talons and rhino horns are made – and account for twenty percent of its weight. The scales are extremely hard and protect pangolin against different animal predators. In traditional Chinese medicine, they’re dried and roasted as a method of draining pus, stimulating lactation and relieving palsy. Therefore, pangolin scales can sell on the black markets for more than $3,000 per kg and have been used to make coats too.
4. Some pangolins climb trees; others dig holes. With their huge, curved claws, they can grip onto the overhanging branches of trees and dig through concrete as well. Arboreal pangolins, like the African long-tailed species, alive in trees, while others dig large burrows.
5. Pangolins have poor eyesight. Of the 8 species of pangolins only one, the long-tailed pangolin native to Central and West Africa, is often active during the day. The rest of the species are nocturnal and, relative to their body size, have very tiny eyes. As a result, they have poor vision. Instead, they locate ant hills and termite mounds with a powerful sense of hearing and smell.
6. Pangolins are sexually dimorphic. That means the genders vary wildly in weight. Many male pangolins are up to 50 percent heavier than the females, while the Indian species can reach 90 percent. They lack a defined mating season, and pangolins are mainly solitary aside from mating, so males attract females by marking their territory with urine and waiting for a female to find them.

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