What is a pangolin?
Pangolins, or scaly anteaters as they are otherwise known, are unique mammals covered in hard scales, comprised of keratin. They predate almost exclusively on ants and termites and are predominantly nocturnal and elusive, secretive mammals.
How many species of pangolin are there?
There are eight extant species of pangolin. They comprise the Chinese pangolin, Indian pangolin, Sunda pangolin and Philippine pangolin, which inhabit Asia, and the white-bellied pangolin, black-bellied pangolin, giant pangolin and Temminck’s pangolin, which occur in Africa.
Where are they found?
Paleo-archaeological evidence suggests pangolins may have evolved in Europe but the extant species are found only in Asia and Africa. They fulfil a similar ecological niche to anteaters in South America, but are unrelated, each having evolved to fill similar ecological roles through convergent evolution.
The word pangolin is derived from the Malay word ‘penggulung’ which means roller – representative of how pangolins behave when they feel threatened, rolling up into a ball.
Why do pangolins need conservation action?
Pangolins are little studied and little understood species. However, they are poached and illegally traded in huge numbers in Asia, while in Africa they are hunted for wild meat and use in traditional African medicine, though evidence now suggests African pangolins and their derivatives are being targeted for trade to Asian markets. Consequently, pangolin populations are in severe decline and are thought to be locally extirpated in parts of both Asia and Africa.
Why are pangolins traded?
Most pangolins in illicit, international trade end up in China and Vietnam. Here the meat of the animals is consumed as a delicacy, but it is also believed to impart health benefits such as nourishing the kidneys. Despite a lack of evidence suggesting they’re effective, pangolin scales are used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine to help breast feeding women lactate milk, to cure ailments ranging from asthma and psoriasis to cancer, and to improve blood circulation.
How many scales do pangolins have?
Due to variation in their size and the size of their scales, each species of pangolin likely has a different range in terms of the number of scales. The number of scales on the Sunda pangolin has been estimated at approximately 900 to over 1000.
How can I help?
There are a number of ways that you can get involved to help support pangolin conservation. Click here to find out more.