The Pangolin certainly qualifies as one of Africa's strangest looking animals. Four different species of Pangolin live in Africa, the one pictured here is a ground pangolin, found in Southern and East Africa. I have never seen one in the wild. I looked for them while on safari in both Southern and East Africa, with no luck.
I spent a little time wandering around at night with a flashlight in the Serengeti at a mobile camp. But the roar of lions and hippo grunts made me too timid to venture out for long. In Tanzania people believe that if a Pangolin is spotted, it will bring 7 years of good luck. Unfortunately it's getting more and more difficult to spot Pangolins, not just because they are shy creatures, but because they are being heavily poached.
Pangolin scales are made up of the same material as rhino horn (keratin) and demand is high in Asia for its supposed medicinal qualities. In China and Vietnam, pangolin fetuses, scales, and blood are used in medicine, the meat is considered a delicacy, and stuffed pangolins are sold as souvenirs. It's no surprise that the little creature is almost extinct in Asia, and is rapidly being poached in Africa as demand has soared this past decade. It's estimated that a single pangolin can fetch around USD $7000 each on the black market in China and Vietnam.
As we know little about the Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), here are 10 interesting facts about them. I hope this will raise awareness about this wonderful creature, and inspire you to help increase international pressure to protect them before it's too late!
- Pangolins roll into a ball when threatened
- Pangolins have long sticky tongues, when not in use they pull it back into a special sheath that retracts into their chest cavity
- Pangolins have anal scent glands that emit strong, foul smelling secretions
- Pangolins are toothless
- Baby pangolins will hide inside the rolled up body of their mother for protection.
- Pangolin scales are sharp and will slice anything that comes in between them
- Pangolins do not have external ears but they hear well
- It's estimated that the Pangolin has been around for about 40 million years
- Pangolins are nocturnal, solitary, and sleep in burrows
- Pangolin scales are made from the same protein as human hair and are valued for their supposed medicinal traits - similar to rhino horn. They are rapidly being poached to extinction.
Sources and More about the Pangolin
Poaching Pangolins: An Obscure Creature faces an Uncertain Future
Live action video of the Pangolin in the Kalahari
AWF Pangolin Page
IUCN Redlist - Pangolin as Endangered Species
Encounter Article on the Pangolin
Image of the Ground Pangolin -- with kind permission from © Daryl Balfour