chap. i — meet the pangolin

Pangolin

Animal Stats

OrderPholidota
FamilyManidae
PopulationThere are no population estimates for any of the 8 Pangolin species
Weightfrom 1.5 to 13 kg
Sizefrom 38 to 59 cm
Threat StatusThreatened status: All 8 pangolin species are considered threatened

Where It Lives

Africa: Black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla), White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), Giant Ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) and Temminck's Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii).

Asia: Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).

chap. ii — Fascinating Facts

The world's only scaly mammal

When under attack from predators, the Pangolin rolls into a ball and uses its scales as a defence. Sadly, this unique armour is in high demand on the black market, meaning the pangolin is now the most illegally traded wild mammal on the planet.

chap. iii — a closer look

The Pangolin's Story

The word pangolin is derived from the Malay word ‘penggulung’ which means roller – representative of how pangolins behave when they feel threatened. They can roll into a tight ball for protection behind their hard keratin scales, which keeps them safe from most predators but not humans.

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters as they are otherwise known, are unique mammals covered in hard scales, comprised of keratin. They feed on invertebrates, mostly ants and termites, using their claws to dig out insect nests. They are predominantly nocturnal (apart from the black-bellied pangolin) and are elusive, secretive mammals.

Although the eight existing species are found only in Asia and Africa, the fossil record suggests pangolins may actually have evolved in Europe. They are Asia and Africa’s version of anteaters in South America, but anteaters are unrelated to pangolins.

The primary threat to most pangolin species is illegal hunting and poaching for local use and illicit international trade. More than one million pangolins are believed to have been taken from the wild over the past decade. Despite a commercial trade ban for wild-caught pangolins in Asia, the illegal trade is thriving.   Consumers pay increasingly high prices for their meat, considered a luxury food in the East. Their scales are also used in traditional Asian medicines, believed to treat a range of ailments even though they are only made of the same material as our hair and fingernails. This has resulted in steep declines in pangolin populations. The Chinese pangolin and Sunda pangolin have experienced estimated declines of around 80% in the last few decades, disappearing from parts of their original range.

 

What’s being done?

The IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group has launched a conservation action plan which lays out the steps that need to be taken to clampdown on the illegal trade and secure the future of pangolins in Asia and Africa. The action plan ‘Scaling up pangolin conservation’ focuses on protecting pangolin strongholds in Asia and Africa, helping local communities move away from poaching, the strengthening of legislation, and most importantly, understanding and reducing consumer demand. Members represent pangolin conservation organisations from across the world that are working to address the threats to pangolins.