The word 'pangolin' comes from the Malay word for rolling up; 'pennggulung' after the way that pangolins roll into a ball to protect themselves. There are eight species of pangolin, four African and four Asian. Some of these species are ground pangolins and some tree (aboreal) pangolins.

Despite their appearance they are not closely related to anteaters or armadillos but they do eat ants!

Pangolins have become the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world. Illegally taken for their meat and scales which some believe have medicinal properties.

Made of keratin, the same protein as our hair and fingernails, a pangolin's scales have no medicinal value.



Between 1.6kg - 33kg


Up to 23,000 ants a day!




Africa & Asia

Where in the world?


The pangolin is the most heavily trafficked wild mammal in the world. To address the issue in Zambia DSWF is funding a pangolin protection programme to ensure the survival of the species in the country.

Learn more about this project



To protect themselves from insect attack when eating, pangolins have special muscles which they can use to close their nostrils and ears. They also have thick eyelids to guard against biting insects.


Pangolins are mainly nocturnal. Tree pangolins prefer to sleep up in the trees during the day while Ground pangolins sleep in burrows which they either dig themselves or else use burrows which have been abandoned by other animals.


Pangolins are good swimmers. They fill their stomachs with air to aid buoyancy.


Pangolins don't have teeth, instead they have keratin spikes in their muscular stomachs which they use along with small stones or sand (swallowed while eating insects) to grind up their food.

Discover more about Pangolins

You can help save pangolins by supporting the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation's work either by fundraising as a school or an individual or entering our annual art and poetry competition. Or you can adopt a pangolin by going to the adopt page on this website. For more information you can download our animal fact sheets and posters too!

Photography courtesy of Sarah Buchan, Edwin Tan, Wildscreen Exchange, GRI