10 reasons You Should Love the Pangolin

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: February 22, 2015 9:20 pm

a sunda pangolin

A sunda pangolin climbing a tree

Photo Credit: By Frendi Apen Irawan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever heard of the pangolin? No. Well you’re not along despite being the world’s most trafficked mammals few people have heard of these animals which are also known as scaly anteaters.

There are 8 species of the pangolin which can be found across two continents. Four can be found in Africa and the other four can be found in Asia.

The Asian pangolins

  • Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) Endangered
  • Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) Critically Endangered
  • Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica) Critically Endangered
  • Philippine Pangolin (Manis culionensis) Critically Endangered

The African Pangolins

  • Black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) Vulnerable
  • White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) Endangered
  • Giant Ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) Endangered
  • Temminck’s Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) Vulnerable

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Temminck's Ground pangolin

A Temminck’s Ground pangolin

Photo Credit: By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters – Manis temminckii, CC BY 2.0

All species of pangolin look rather similar with the most noteable feature being the large scales which cover their body. Unfortunately these have been the source of their demise. In some cultures the scales are sought after for use in traditional medicines.

These scales are made from keratin the same substance from which human hair and fingernails are formed and no medicinal benefits have been scientifically proven from consuming it. They are also sought out for their meat which is seen as a delicacy.

Below we bring you 10 of the coolest facts about the pangolin which we hope will make you fall in love with and want to save them.

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  1. Pangolins have evolved with a unique appearance. They are the only mammal which has a body covered in scales. When threatened they roll in to a ball and point these hard scales outward which protect the softer parts of their body.

2 Ants need to watch out when a pangolin is around. Each year a single pangolin may consume as many as 70 million ants. They are also well adapted to stop the efforts of ants to protect themselves. Their nostrils and ears can close to prevent ants getting in.

Chinese pangolin

A Chinese pangolin at Zoo Leipzig. One of the few pangolins in captivity outside their range.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

3 To catch that many ants the pangolin has a massive tongue. In fact its so long that it actually attaches down near their pelvis rather than in the mouth. Its long, muscular and sticky to help them reach in to deep cavities.

4 Once the ants reach their stomach the pangolin has pebbles inside which can be used to grind up these ants.


An Indian pangolin

Photo Credit: By Dushy Ranetunge – & Kaballeva in Kandy: Rare photos of a Sri Lankan Armadillo”, CC BY-SA 3.0

5 To ensure their claws remain sharp for digging the pangolin will walk on the side of its knuckles or solely on their back two legs. This has been likened to the movement of a tyrannosaurus rex.

6 Pangolins are nocturnal and incredibly shy. As such little is known about their behavior and lifecycle in the wild.

7 Over the past 10 years conservative estimates suggest that over 1 million pangolins have been taken from the wild. These estimates come from seizures which do not catch all of the pangolins which are being trafficked.


A pangolin curls in a ball to try and protect itself from a pride of lions.

Photo Credit: By Sandip kumar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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8 Pangolins play an important part in the ecosystem of areas where they live. While shuffling the soil around to find ants they help to promote the growth of new plants.

9 When threatened they curl up in a ball and point out their scales which means they can keep safe even against lions as shown above.

10 Many species of pangolin spend much of their time in the trees and like many monkeys have a prehensile tail which can be used to support their body weight while hanging upside down.

Want to learn more about pangolins?

We have a full fact file dedicated to the white-bellied pangolin of Africa which you can read by clicking the button or you watch a video by Animalogic on pangolins below.

Video Credit: Animalogic

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