The term "Pangolin" refers to any of 8 species of mammals found in Africa and Asia. Also known as "Scaly Anteaters", they are insectivores covered in protective scales made from keratin. The same material that makes up human nails and tetrapod claws. These fascinating creatures range in size from 30-100cm (12-39in). Pangolins mainly eat ants and termites, which means they attack the mounds with massive front claws and a 40cm (16in) long tongue. Unlike other mammals, the tongue is not anchored to the hyoid bone but instead anchored below that between the sternum and the trachea. There are currently arboreal Pangolins (tree-dwelling) as well as terrestrial (land-based).

Pangolin Walking

Being as small as they are, they would be on the menu of a lot of other animals. To counter this, they curl up into a ball as a defensive strategy, presenting their hardened scales to the threat while protecting their softer areas like their face and underbelly. Another part of their defence strategy is that they produce a terrible smelling fluid from their anal gland similar to that of a skunk. Meaning fewer predators would want to breathe that in while trying to get past their protective scales.


As mentioned earlier, Pangolins feed on mainly ants and termites. Their strong, large front claws are perfect for ripping apart the ant hills and termite mounds. Their saliva is sticky which allows the ants and termites to stick to the tongue and get pulled back into the mouth. Pangolins don't chew their food prior to swallowing, and instead have an adapted stomach that includes a compartment called a gizzard. They eat small stones that are stored in the gizzard which allows the ants and termites to be ground up among the stones much like the seeds do in a birds gizzard.

Pangolin defending itself

All 8 species of Pangolins are listed as threatened due to extreme black market trading and poaching. The flesh and scales are used in Traditional Chinese medicine. It is estimated that an average of over 100 000 individuals have been trafficked per year for the last decade to China and Vietnam. They are currently listed as the most trafficked animals in the world. Despite the fact that Pangolin scales are made from the same stuff as fingernails, East Asian medicine believes they can cure cancer and asthma while helping with lactation.

Indian Pangolin

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