What is a Pangolin?

What is a Pangolin?

The word Pangolin comes from ‘penggulung,’ which is a Malay word for roller.  Rolling is the action or behaviour a pangolin takes in self-defence.  When startled a pangolin will roll into a ball, covering its head with its front legs, protecting its underbelly.  Pangolins are also commonly known as ‘scaly anteaters’ because of their preferred diet – ants and termites.

There are 8 species of Pangolin – 4 species in sub-Saharan Africa and 4 species in Asia.

Sadly Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world. Scientists believe more than 1,000,000 Pangolins have been illegally taken from the wild in the last 10 years.  Pangolins scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine as they are believed to treat a range of ailments, and their meat is considered a delicacy.

As a result of this trafficking, pangolins are now listed as either Critically Endangered or Endangered, depending on the specific species.

There has been very little research conducted on any of the Pangolin species. Okonjima Nature Reserve (ONR) in Namibia is conducting a ground-breaking study of all the details of life for the ground pangolins in Namibia. The overall aim of this project is to understand the activity patterns, population dynamics, prey selectivity, and overall ecology of wild pangolin within ONR and to gather further information about their behaviour and survival strategies. The end goal of collecting this data is to shed light on biological baseline knowledge and to create conservation guidelines for ground pangolin which can be applicable across their range. Another very important objective is to increase awareness of the vulnerable status of southern Africa’s only pangolin species.