Animals 11 Cool Facts About Pangolins

Published on September 11th, 2009 | by Rhishja Cota-Larson


11 Cool Facts About Pangolins


Pangolins – scaly, toothless anteaters that resemble a giant walking artichoke – are being hunted to near extinction in Southeast Asia to meet the demands of illegal trade in pangolin meat and body parts in China.

To help raise awareness of these gentle creatures, here is a list of 11 cool facts about pangolins. Enjoy!

Meet the pangolin

  1. Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same material that comprises hair and fingernails. The scales also grow continuously.
  2. The pangolin’s scales comprise about 20% of its weight.
  3. Pangolins do not have teeth. They feed on on ants and termites using a long, sticky tongue.
  4. The pangolin’s tongue – when fully extended – can be up to 16 inches longer than the entire animal.
  5. Pangolins can close their ear and nostril openings to keep insects out.
  6. The pangolin’s stomach grinds contents with small stones, similar to a bird’s gizzard.
  7. Pangolins have very poor eyesight, but an excellent sense of smell.
  8. Pangolins mark their territories with stinky secretions from a special gland, as well as the traditional marking methods of scattering feces and urine.
  9. It is estimated that one pangolin can consume in excess of 70 million insects per year.
  10. There are eight species of pangolin: Four Asian species and four African species.
  11. Baby pangolins travel with their mother by riding on the base of her tail.

Pangolin populations in decline

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, all eight pangolin species are experiencing decreasing populations. Due to an unfortunate superstition throughout China that pangolin meat, scales, fetus, and body parts have medicinal properties, the Chinese Pangolin and the Sunda Pangolin are now classified as endangered.

Visit Save Pangolins to find out how you can help these shy creatures.

Sources: Save Pangolins, African Wildlife Foundation

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About the Author

Rhishja is the founder of Annamiticus, a nonprofit organization which provides educational information and news about wildlife crime and endangered species. Rhishja has journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. At CITES CoP16 in Bangkok, she joined colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species from economic exploitation. When Rhishja is not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, she enjoys gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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