The 10th annual World Pangolin Day will be celebrated on 20 February 2021. Most people will not have heard of a Pangolin, yet, sadly, it is one of the most trafficked animals in the world.
I have been fortunate to see 2 African Pangolins in 25 years of travelling to/from Africa. I say fortunate, as many guides have not seen them. These solitary, primarily nocturnal animals, are easily recognised by their full armour of scales. A startled pangolin will cover its head with its front legs, exposing its scales to any potential predator. If touched or grabbed it will roll up completely into a ball, while the sharp scales on the tail can be used to lash out.
The word Pangolin comes from ‘penggulung,’ a Malay word for roller. This is the action a pangolin takes in self-defence. When startled, a pangolin will cover its head with its front legs, exposing its scales to any potential predator. If touched or grabbed it will roll up completely into a ball, while the sharp scales on the tail can be used to lash out.
Some people think Pangolins are reptiles, but they are actually mammals. They are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales and they use those scales to protect themselves from predators in the wild. If under threat, a pangolin will immediately curl into a tight ball and will use their sharp-scaled tails to defend themselves.
Pangolins eat ants, termites and larvae and are often known as “the scaly anteater.” Because they have no teeth, pangolins pick up food with their sticky tongues, which can sometimes reach lengths greater than the animal’s body.
THERE ARE EIGHT SPECIES OF PANGOLIN
Four species of pangolin can be found in Africa, and four in Asia.
The four species that live in Africa are:
- Black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla)
- White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis)
- Giant Ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea)
- Temminck’s Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii)
The four species that live in Asia are:
- Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata)
- Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis)
- Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica)
- Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)