Animal of the Month
May 2017

Name: Pangolin

Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Eutheria
Superorder: Laurasiatheria
Order: Pholidota
Family: Tachyglossidae
Genus: Zaglossus

Number of Species: 8
- Chinese pangolin-Manis pentadactyla
- Sunda pangolin-Manis javanica
- Indian pangolin-Manis crassicaudata
- Philippine pangolin-Manis culionensis
- Cape or Temminck's Ground pangolin-Smutsia temminckii
- White-bellied or Tree pangolin-Phataginus tricuspis
- Giant Ground pangolin-mutsia gigantea
- Black-bellied or Long-tailed pangolin-Phataginus tetradactyla

Size: 12-39 inches
Weight: Around 3.5-75 lbs

Characteristics: A snout, scaly armor all along the body, long claws, very long tongue
Color(s): Light-to-yellowish brown to olive and dark brown
Behavior: Shy, nocturnal
Preferred Habitat: Tropical forests, flooded forests, thick brush, clear cultivated areas, and grasslands.
Range: China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Sub-Saharan Africa
Diet: Ants, termites and other insects
Lifespan: Unknown in wild, up to 20 years in captivity


Not well-known in the western world but known very well in Asia and Africa, pangolins are one of the most threatened animals in the world. Often called "scaly anteaters", pangolins are small mammals set apart by their trademark scales. They resemble armadillos, but are actually more closely related to carnivores. There are eight species of pangolin; four live in Africa and four live in Asia. Pangolins grow between 12 and 39 inches long and can way as much as 75 pounds! They are insectivores and prefer to eat ants and termites, but will eat crickets and other insects. A pangolin eats its meals with its tongue...a tongue that is longer than it's whole body!

Pangolins live over a wide variety of habitats, including tropical and flooded forests, thick brush, and grasslands. Some species of pangolin live in trees while others live in burrows underground. Pangolins cannot see or hear well, but their sense of smell is very strong. Pangolins are mostly nocturnal animals. They are solitary except when seeking a mate. After a gestation period of 120-150 days, a pangolin will give birth. African pangolins give birth to one baby at a time, whereas Asian pangolins give birth to one-to-three at a time. Babies will ride on their mother's backs and start to eat insects at about three months. They will go off on their own at about two years old.

Pangolin plates are made of keratin, the same material your fingernails are made of. There are carnivores such as lions that would like to make a meal of a pangolin, but they usually are out of luck. When approached by a threat, a pangolin will curl into a ball, similar to an armadillo. Its scales are so tough and sharp that once it curls up almost nothing can hurt it. As an extra defense measure, pangolins can also emit a stinky fluid that discourages predators.

Pangolins do not handle stress well. Just being in the presence of a pangolin for too long can stress it out, and enough stress can even kill the poor thing! Very few zoos in the world keep pangolins.

Pangolins are threatened due to widespread destruction of their habitat. They are also mercilessly poached and sold to black market dealers who sell them as an illegal delicacy. Their scales are also said to be useful in curing various ailments including cancer. Pangolin skin and blood are also sought for medicinal purposes. Make no mistake; pangolin medicines will NOT give any benefits to your body whatsoever! There is absolutely NO evidence to suggest that medicines with pangolin body parts will cure cancer or otherwise improve your health!

Want to help protect pangolins? Check out these organizations dedicated to pangolin conservation!

Save Pangolins-Dedicated to protecting and educating the world about pangolins

Project Pangolin-Another organization dedicated to preserving this wonderful species

CNN, "The Most Trafficked Mammal You've Never Heard Of". This article from CNN brought the plight of the pangolin into the Western spotlight!

Don't forget to celebrate World Pangolin Day on Feburary 21st!!!


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