What is a Pangolin?
Described as the ‘scaly anteater’, the pangolin is a small termite-eating mammal, known for its unusual appearance, incredibly long tongue, and ability to roll into a perfect ball when threatened. Pangolins are covered in scales (the only mammal with such a covering) made of keratin – the same fibrous protein forming our fingernails and rhinos’ horns.
They are highly sought after in the wildlife trade because of their scales, which are, incorrectly, believed to have healing properties. As a result, this little known animal has become the world’s most trafficked. There are eight species of pangolin – four in Africa and four in Asia – all of which are under great threat of extinction.
Why have I never heard of a pangolin?
Pangolins only began getting international attention recently, due to their populations’ rapid decline, stemming from a new trend in the wildlife trade. They are very rarely seen in the wild, and because most people have never seen one, they don’t know of them and are unaware of their plight. Pangolins are difficult to spot in the wild because they are nocturnal, solitary and secretive. In fact, many field guides may never see a pangolin over the course of their entire careers.
Why are pangolins under threat?
The pangolin’s biggest threat is poaching by humans, followed by habitat loss. In Africa, pangolins are hunted for bush meat, and in parts of Asia, are used in traditional medicine and eaten as a delicacy.
Pangolins are poached and traded more than even elephants and rhinos, and a growing demand for them puts them at great risk of extinction. An estimated 100 000 are taken from the wild each year.
Please help us spread awareness. The more people know about this special animal, the more we can stand together and protect it. You can join us in sharing using the hashtag #worldpangolinday and #savethepangolin