The Pangolin



Manidae manis, phataginus, smutsia

African Species: Black-bellied pangolin, White-bellied pangolin, Giant Ground pangolin & Temminck's Ground pangolin.

Asian Species: Indian pangolin, Philippine pangolin, Sunda pangolin & Chinese pangolin.


Photo from Paw Mane Fin

Photo from Paw Mane Fin

Status: Vulnerable to Critically Endangered

Lifespan: 20 yrs (in captivity, wild lifespan is unknown) 

Gestation Period: 5 months

Diet:  Insectivorous

Est. Population: 

Habitat: Forests & Grasslands

Range: Asia & Africa



The name pangolin comes from the word pengguling, meaning "one who rolls up". This is because it will curl up into a ball when threatened, providing extra defence from predators. Its sharp and overlapping scales act as armour, while it protects its face by tucking it under its tail. They can also emit a foul smelling chemical from glands near their anus, similar to the spray of a skunk, which will also help deter predators. 

The pangolin has a small head and a long, broad tail. It has no external ears, but its hearing is quite good. They are mostly nocturnal and have a well developed sense of smell to help them find they prey, insects. Pangolins also have no teeth and, instead, have a gizzard-like stomach that is specially adapted for grinding food. Pangolins consume small stones and sand to assist the grinding. They have short legs, with sharp claws which they use for burrowing into termite and ant mounds, as well as climbing. Some pangolin species are arboreal and live in hollow trees, whereas the ground-dwelling species burrow in tunnels underground.



Pangolin populations have been devastated by poaching for illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss. Unfortunately, they are the worlds most trafficked animal with an estimated 100,000 removed from the wild every year. By human action, these incredibly unique creatures are considered to be one of the most endangered groups of animals on the planet. 

1. Poaching; 

  • Scales (made of keratin) are used in traditional medicine and folk remedies to treat a range of ailments from asthma to rheumatism and arthritis. They are in high demand in some countries like China and Vietnam.  
  • Hunted for bushmeat; It is considered a delicacy in some Asian countries

2. Habitat Loss;

  • In both Africa and Asia, pangolins are threatened by loss of habitat due to expanding agriculture. 

3. Predation

  • Leopards, hyenas, humans




It is important to raise public-awareness to educate consumers of wildlife products about the damage being done to wildlife populations and the lack of any medicinal or magical properties in pangolin scales. 

There are existing initiatives where organizations work with wildlife authorities to train and deploy sniffer dog teams to key airports, seaports and other wildlife trafficking hubs. Dog-and-handler teams in East Africa have intercepted pangolin scales on multiple occasions. Supporting these initiatives is important as they come at a cost to maintain them year round. 

In North America, in September 2016, all commercial trade in pangolin was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is policies like these that help regulate the importing of wildlife products such as pangolin and make it more difficult for wildlife products to reach consumers.

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