Pangolins are small mammals. Like anteaters, they have a long tongue that is used for eating ants and termites. They also have scales like an armadillo. These scales are made of keratin, which is the same thing that fingernails are made of. As a defense tactic, pangolins will roll up into a ball. They also release a smelly fluid for defense. Pangolins are very good at digging. They dig with their front feet and use their back feet and tail as a support. There is a large range of sizes across all the pangolin species, with some being 45 inches and some being 4.5 feet. Their weight is just as varying, with some only weighing 4 pounds and others weighing 78. The black-bellied pangolin is a very good tree climber, but most other pangolins live on the ground. They live alone and are mostly nocturnal.
There are eight species of pangolins, and all eight are endangered. The main reason they are endangered is animal trafficking. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal other than humans. They are trafficked for their meat and especially their scales. Their scales are used as a medicine, although there is no scientific proof of medicinal value. They are used to "treat" many ailments such as arthritis. Their meat is a delicacy eaten by the very rich. Though the commercial sale of pangolins was banned in 2016, illegal pangolin trafficking continues to this day. In April 2019, people in Singapore found a 2 massive cartons, about 14 tons each, of pangolin scales. The scales came from about 72,000 pangolins.
Image courtesy of National Geographic
One effect the pangolin has on the environment is what it eats. Pangolins’ tongues are perfect for slurping up a lot of bugs, and they help keep the bug population in check. One pangolin can eat more than 70 million insects per year. Without them, the bug populations would get out of control. The pangolins eat enough bugs so that the populations don’t get out of check. If there were too many pangolins, there would be too little bugs, and with the pangolin's population descending quickly, there will be more and more bugs.
The main thing you can do to help pangolins is not to use pangolins meat or pangolin scales. Pangolins are an extremely trafficked animal, mostly because of the demand for their scales. We need to stop killing pangolins for their scales. Another thing you can do is tell people about pangolins. Many people don’t even know what a pangolin is, let alone that they are the second most trafficked mammal. Many people have never heard of these adorable, fascinating creatures, and unfortunately, they may not get the chance to learn more. You can help by raising awareness about the pangolin’s plight. Tell people about what pangolins are and how they need our help.
"Pangolins." World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/species/pangolin.
Accessed 23 Mar. 2020.
"What Is a Pangolin?" Save Pangolins, 2019, www.savepangolins.org/
what-is-a-pangolin/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2020.
Pangolins: The Most Trafficked Animal You've Never Heard of. Produced by Jed
Winer, narrated by Angeli Gabriel, National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/group/pangolins/
*all pictures used with permission, and/or taken from the sites above.