Pangolin Facts

What is a pangolin?

Pangolins, sometimes given the nickname ‘scaly anteaters’, are four-legged mammals who are completely covered in a layer of scales made of keratin (the same material that human hair and nails are made of). They use these scales as a protective suit of armour; when they are attacked, they roll into a ball with their head tucked into their tails so that predators can’t get to them.

They are very solitary animals, spending time mostly alone unless they’re raising young. They are also nocturnal.

How many species of pangolin exist?

All eight species of pangolin are classified as Appendix I under the Convention in the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to give them the highest level of protection from extinction. There are eight species of pangolin:

The four species of Asian pangolins

  • Chinese pangolin 
  • Malayan pangolin
  • Indian pangolin
  • Palawan pangolin

The four species of African pangolins

  • Tree pangolin (also known as the white-bellied pangolin)
  • Giant pangolin
  • Cape pangolin (also known as the Temminck’s pangolin)
  • Long-tailed pangolin (also known as the black-bellied pangolin)

The four Asian pangolins are distinguished from the African species by the presence of bristles which emerge from between the scales.  The African tree pangolin and long-tailed pangolin are arboreal and able to climb trees.

How many pangolins are left in the wild?

Because pangolins live such secluded lives, no population studies have been able to successfully estimate how many pangolins are left in the wild.

We do know that in the last decade around 1 million pangolins have been poached (which is nearly 300 per day) and some species have been hunted to near extinction in China.

Where do pangolins live?

Four pangolin species occur across Asia: the Indian pangolin, the Chinese or Formosan pangolin, the Malayan or Sunda pangolin, and the Palawan pangolin.

Four species are found in Africa south of the Sahara Desert: the Cape or ground pangolin, the tree pangolin, the giant pangolin, and the long-tailed pangolin.

What is a pangolin’s habitat?

Pangolins are found in a variety of habitats, from forests to grasslands, tropical climates to thick brush. Generally, pangolins live where large numbers of ants and termites can be found to feed their large appetites for insects.

Pangolins that live on the ground usually dig deep burrows for sleeping and nesting that contain circular chambers. Large chambers have been discovered in terrestrial pangolin burrows that are big enough for a human to crawl inside and stand up. Some pangolin species, such as the Malayan pangolin, also sleep in the hollows and forks of trees and logs.

What do pangolins eat?

Pangolins have long claws which they use to tear into insect nests. They have incredibly long sticky tongues to pick up and devour ants and termites. They are so effective at this that an average pangolin can consume up to 70 million insects per year!

This has a hugely important impact on their environment, as they have a big role in controlling insect populations.

How much do pangolins weigh?

Pangolins vary in size – there are three bigger species, the biggest being the giant pangolin, where an adult weighs on average 33kg. Close behind this are the Indian pangolin, which reaches 13kg, and the ground pangolin, which reaches 12kg.

The other four breeds of pangolin are smaller, with the Sunda pangolin weighing 4.9kg, the Chinese pangolin weighing around 3.6kg, the long-tailed pangolin weighing around 2.7kg and the smallest species is the tree pangolin, weighing only 1.5kg.

What is a group of pangolins called?

There is no official collective noun for pangolins because they are solitary species. Pangolins are also not very well known.

World Pangolin Day is held annually on the third Saturday of February.

Why not use this as your chance to fundraise to help protect pangolins from extinction?