Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are eutherian, placental mammals that inhabit tropical and subtropical forests, dry woodlands, and open savannah regions of the Old World. Armoured with unique scales comprised of keratin, pangolins predate almost exclusively on ants and termites and are predominantly nocturnal and elusive, secretive mammals. Pangolins are understood to have diverged from the Carnivora around 70 million years ago and are one of the least diverse mammalian orders. All extant and fossil pangolins reside in the family Manidae, the only family within the taxonomic order Pholidota. Despite fulfilling a similar ecological niche, they are taxonomically distinct from the anteaters, armadillos, and sloths of the Order Xenarthra. To find out more about the natural history of pangolins click here.

Cape or Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii)

Although pangolins are protected by national and international legislation throughout their range, poaching and habitat loss are understood to be severely depleting populations. In particular, illicit hunting for illegal international trade takes place, predominantly in Asia, where the meat of the animals is consumed and their scales used in traditional medicines. However, evidence now suggests that pangolins in Africa are under similar threat from intercontinental trade. For more information on the threats to pangolins click here.

Sunda or Malayan Pangolin (Manis javanica)

Of the eight extant pangolin species, four occur in Asia: the Chinese Pangolin, the Sunda or Malayan Pangolin, the Philippine Pangolin, and the Indian or Thick-tailed Pangolin. The four African species include the Cape or Temminck’s ground Pangolin, the Giant ground or Giant Pangolin, the Tree or African White-bellied Pangolin, and the Long-tailed or Black-bellied Pangolin. The Asian species are distinguished from the African species by the presence of hair between their scales.

Asian pangolins:

African pangolins:


The information on this site has been derived from various scientific sources, including those in our literature library.

Suggested citation: Pangolin Specialist Group (2014). Website of the IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group <>.