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60 Pangolin Facts: Guide to All 8 Species (Sweet, Scaly, and Endangered)

Looking to learn about pangolins? You're in the right place! Here, you'll learn about the 8 species of pangolins, and tons of great pangolin facts.

Pangolin

With their tiny paws and roly-poly bodies, pangolins are some of the most adorable animals in the world. They're a favorite of zoos and wildlife sanctuaries where people can coo over their cuteness. They may be weird animals, but we love them!

Sadly, they're also in great demand in Asia and Africa. Their scales and skins have been used for clothes, medicines, wines and spiritual rituals throughout the millennia. They're eaten as a delicacy. They're traded as prizes.

Unfortunately, all of these things have combined to make pangolins an endangered, highly-trafficked animal. People want them so much that they're going extinct! Some way to show our love…

What can you do to help the pangolin? What do you want to learn about their feeding, mating and socializing habits? Increase your knowledge with these pangolin facts!

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Table of Contents

Ultimate Guide to the Pangolin – 8 Species

Did you know there are more than one species of pangolin? Well, there are! There is 8 total and I'll break them down for you here.

1. Chinese pangolin

  • Latin name: Manis pentadactyla
  • Where they are found: China, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma
  • Size: 40 – 58 centimeters (body), 25 – 38 centimeters (tail), 4 – 15 pounds (weight)
  • Diet: Ants, termites, flies, worms, larvae
  • Conservation: Critically endangered

What’s unique about the Chinese pangolin?

The Chinese pangolin is one of the most critically endangered pangolin species. It's found exclusively in Asia, though it isn't native to China alone. It can also be found in the countries adjacent to it.

 

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One of the most distinctive features of the Chinese pangolin is its prehensile tail. It's a long, coiling thing that can grow almost as long as the pangolin's body, and it can be used for gripping trees branches or stripping away the bark to find the tasty bugs underneath.

 

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Not every pangolin has this kind of tail, so if you're looking at a picture of one with a fat or stubby tail, it isn't a Chinese pangolin.

What does the Chinese pangolin look like?

Chinese pangolins are usually gray or brown in color. Their scales cover their entire bodies except for the soft pink skin of their faces and claws. They tend to have narrower snouts than other pangolins.

2. Indian pangolin

  • Latin name: Manis crassicaudata
  • Where they are found: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka
  • Size: 84 – 122 centimeters (body), 33 – 47 centimeters (tail), 22 – 35 pounds (weight)
  • Diet: Ants, termites
  • Conservation: Endangered

What’s unique about the Indian pangolin?

The Indian pangolin is one of the largest and heaviest pangolin species; it's dwarfed only by the giant pangolin. It resides in southern Asia.

The habitat of the Indian pangolin is a bit unusual in the sense that it can change depending on the country where the pangolin is living. In the deserts of Pakistan, it might burrow deep underground.

In the mountains of Sri Lanka, it can make a home among the grassy hills and cliffs of the countryside. It's even been spotted at elevations as high as 2,300 meters in India!

What does the Indian pangolin look like?

Also known as the “thick-tailed pangolin,” the Indian pangolin has a wide, bulky tail that sets it apart from other pangolin species.

It's also bigger than its cousins, and its scales have bigger proportions as well. It usually comes in desert colors like yellow, brown, bronze and orange.

3. Giant pangolin

  • Latin name: Smutsia gigantea
  • Where they are found: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Gabon, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone
  • Size: 125 centimeters (females), 140 centimeters (males), 72.6 pounds (weight)
  • Diet: Ants, termites
  • Conservation: Vulnerable

What’s unique about the giant pangolin?

As you might expect from the name, the giant pangolin is the biggest member of the pangolin family. It can weigh three times as much as the white-and black-bellied pangolins!

There are some other impressive things about the giant pangolin as well. It can use its massive body to break open termite mounds with nothing more than its weight.

It can fart a horrible smell like a skunk to scare away predators (now that's a superpower). It can even walk upright by using its tail for balance.

A lot of the most fun pangolin facts come from giant pangolins. They're fascinating creatures with a lot of eccentricities!

What does the giant pangolin look like?

The giant pangolin is usually a reddish-brown color that blends in with the African savanna. It has a large, heavy body with jagged scales. Mysteriously, the giant pangolin has eyelashes while other pangolins don't.

4. Ground pangolin

  • Latin name: Smutsia temminckii
  • Where they are found: Chad, Ethiopia, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa
  • Size: 30 – 100 centimeters (body), 20 – 26 pounds (weight)
  • Diet: Termites, ants, worms
  • Conservation: Vulnerable

What’s unique about the ground pangolin?

Unlike tree-dwelling pangolins, ground pangolins prefer to live underground. They've even been known to steal the burrows of aardvarks and aardwolves.

For this reason, the ground pangolin is one of the least-studied pangolin species. Not only is it a shy, secretive creature to begin with, but it's also difficult to find in the wild since its habitat can be either completely concealed or hidden in plain sight while disguised as another animal's.

 

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Another distinctive feature of the ground pangolin is that it's the only pangolin found in southern Africa. It has a broad range that can intersect with other breeds like the giant pangolin, but past a certain latitude, the ground pangolin lives alone.

What does the ground pangolin look like?

The ground pangolin usually has a gray or brown coloring. It might have a reddish tint, especially if it lives in a desert region.

 

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Or, it might have white or yellow edges on its scales. It's another breed that can weigh a lot.

5. Sunda pangolin

  • Latin name: Manis javanica
  • Where they are found: Malaysia, Java, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, Sumatra, Borneo
  • Size: 40 – 65 centimeters (body), 35 – 56 centimeters (tail), 10 – 15 pounds (weight)
  • Diet: Ants, termites, flies, larvae
  • Conservation: Critically Endangered

What’s unique about the Sunda pangolin?

The Sunda pangolin is one of the tree-dwelling pangolin species. It has a wide range over southeast Asia and will happily rest in all kinds of forests, groves, and plantations.

The Sunda pangolin is a creature of many names. Some people call it the Malaysian pangolin; others refer to it as the Javan pangolin.

 

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For a while, it was commonly confused with and classified with the Chinese pangolin, but scientists later determined that it deserved its own separate species.

What does the Sunda pangolin look like?

Sunda pangolins are mostly brown and gray. They have rounder scales than other breeds. They can sometimes be distinguished by yellow or white patches along their bodies, bellies, and tails. If you look closely, they also have shorter forearm claws than other pangolins.

6. Philippine pangolin

  • Latin name: Manis culionensi
  • Where they are found: Philippines
  • Size: 58 – 100 centimeters (body), 3 pounds (weight)
  • Diet: Ants, termites
  • Conservation: Endangered

What’s unique about the Philippine pangolin?

The Philippine pangolin is a mysterious one. Not much is known about its biology or ecology because studies have been limited; the only real information that we have is on its physical appearance. For example, it has more scales on its body than the other species, and it has longer limbs.

One interesting thing to note about the Philippine pangolin is that it might be genetically related to the Sunda pangolin.

It's thought that the destruction of a bridge in Borneo might have split the two species into separate environments a long time ago.

What does the Philippine pangolin look like?

The Philippine pangolin has light colors that can range from a soft yellow to a pale brown. In terms of proportions, they look a lot like Sunda pangolins.

7. Tree pangolin

  • Latin name: Phataginus tricuspis
  • Where they are found: Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, Uganda
  • Size: 33 – 43 centimeters (body), 49 – 62 centimeters (tail), 3 – 5 pounds (weight)
  • Diet: Ants, termites
  • Conservation: Vulnerable

What’s unique about the tree pangolin?

Also known as the “white-bellied pangolin” or “three-cusped pangolin,” tree pangolins are one of the more distinct breeds.

They're smaller and quicker than the others, and they have larger eyes, skinnier tails and more prominent patches of hair.

They also have tail pads that are used for gripping and climbing trees.

What does the tree pangolin look like?

Tree pangolins have yellow or bronze scales. Each scale has three points, which is why they're sometimes called “three-cusped” pangolins.

 

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Unlike other breeds, their scales don't cover their entire bodies; they have fur on their bellies instead. Their tails are long, skinny and prehensile.

8. Long-tailed pangolin (Black-bellied pangolin)

  • Latin name: Phataginus tetradactyla
  • Where they are found: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Liberia, Gabon, Ghana
  • Size: 30 – 40 centimeters (body), 60 – 70 centimeters (tail), 5 – 7 pounds (weight)
  • Diet: Ants, termites, larvae
  • Conservation: Vulnerable

What’s unique about the long-tailed pangolin?

The long-tailed pangolin has one of the most distinctive appearances of the pangolin family. You'll never confuse it with anything else!

There are also some differences in habitat and behavior. For example, while all other pangolin species are nocturnal, the long-tailed pangolin is diurnal.

 

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They're also capable swimmers that are commonly found near bodies of water. These things can really distinguish the long-tailed pangolin from the rest.

What does the long-tailed pangolin look like?

The long-tailed pangolin has an absolutely eye-popping appearance.

For starters, its tail is literally twice as long as its body. It's a slim, flexible appendage that can coil like a snake around branches and tree trunks. It has a climbing and gripping pad like other tree-dwelling species.

The long-tailed pangolin is also a darker creature than its cousins. It has a black body with black, gold-tipped scales that make it look like a dragon. The visual is especially striking when they curl up into their characteristic balls!

60 Pangolin Facts

Now that you know the difference between each of the 8 pangolin species, let's get into some pangolin facts!

1. What does the pangolin look like?

The pangolin is a four-legged animal with a snout and tail. It's covered in tough, plate-like scales that can form an impenetrable armor when the pangolin gets frightened and curls into a ball.

The pangolin can come in many different colors depending on its environment. For example, desert pangolins tend to be yellow and brown while forest-dwelling pangolins might be the same gray as rotting tree trunks. One species, the long-tailed pangolin, is entirely black with gold-tipped scales.

The pangolin has sharp claws that it uses to dig into the earth and search for insects. It also has a prominent tail, and between the different species, it can be either semi-prehensile or entirely prehensile.

Pangolin tail

Another important feature of the pangolin is its tongue. It's a long, sticky thing that acts like flypaper when it's time to feed.

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2. Do pangolins have hair?

Yes. Pangolins have furry patches on their bellies and throats. Their scales don't reach all of the ways around, so the hairs protect them from the elements and help to keep them clean.

3. What is special about a pangolin?

Ecologically speaking, pangolins play a critical role in their ecosystems. They're huge consumers of ants, termites and other insects. If they were to go extinct, local insect populations would explode by the trillions.

On a sad note, pangolins also have a lot of uses in the traditional cultures of Asia and Africa. For example, they're used in Chinese medicines and Indian rituals, and they're considered a menu delicacy in Vietnam.

Finally, pangolins are hunted for their scales, skins, and meat. Pangolins have been turned into everything from leather shoes to blood tonics.

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Conservationists are working hard to both decrease the demand for these products and protect the pangolin from poachers who would cause their extinction.

4. How big is a pangolin?

The pangolin can range from “small and cute” to “large and heavy.” It depends on the species. Here's a full rundown:

  • Giant pangolin: 125 – 140 centimeters
  • Long-tailed pangolin: 30 – 40 centimeters
  • Tree pangolin: 33 – 43 centimeters
  • Ground pangolin 30 – 100 centimeters
  • Indian pangolin: 84 – 122 centimeters
  • Chinese pangolin: 40 – 58 centimeters
  • Philippine pangolin: 58 – 100 centimeters
  • Sunda pangolin: 40 – 65 centimeters

These numbers don't include their tails. When tails are added to their measurements, pangolins can literally double in size.

5. How much does a pangolin weigh?

Unfortunately, we don't have full and accurate data for the weights of every pangolin species. Some of them are approximations more than absolute truths. However, here's the typical list:

  • Giant pangolin: 72 pounds (average)
  • Long-tailed pangolin: 5 – 7 pounds
  • Tree pangolin: 3 – 5 pounds
  • Ground pangolin 20 – 26 pounds
  • Indian pangolin: 22 – 35 pounds
  • Chinese pangolin: 4 – 15 pounds
  • Philippine pangolin: 3 pounds (average)
  • Sunda pangolin: 10 – 15 pounds

6. How long is the pangolin's tongue?

You've already learned about the long, sticky tongues that pangolins can use to scoop up ants and termites like candy. But did you know that they're ridiculously long?

Pangolin tongues can measure up to 16 inches long. They're so big that they don't even fit inside of the pangolin's mouth; they extend down into the sternum and chest, and their starting point is somewhere around the hipbone.

To put this into perspective, imagine if your own tongue started at your hip. Imagine if your tongue was longer than your forearm. That's the reality for pangolins!

7. Is a pangolin a mammal or a reptile?

While it's often confused with a reptile because of its scales, the pangolin is a mammal.

Pangolin hunting

It checks off several of the criteria for mammals: it's a warm-blooded animal, it has fur, and it gives birth to live young that drinks milk.

8. Are armadillos and pangolins the same thing?

Nope! Armadillos and pangolins are entirely separate creatures, but you can be forgiven for thinking that they're the same.

They look similar, and their defensive tactics both involve curling into a ball. Just know that their genetic makeup is completely different.

9. Are pangolins the same as aardvarks?

Another no! Pangolins and aardvarks are completely separate creatures.

There's a reason why you might mentally group them into the same category, however. Historically speaking, pangolins used to be classified with anteaters, armadillos, and aardvarks in a category called edentata (“toothless”).

This has caused a lot of confusion over the years. People tend to look at scaled or long-snouted creatures and think that they're all the same.

But all of these animals are separate beings. They don't even belong to the same scientific classifications. They're all distinct animals.

10. Is a Sandshrew a pangolin?

Yes. While it's never been officially confirmed that Sandshrew is based on a pangolin, it's common knowledge in the Pokemon community.

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He has the exact same scales and claws as a pangolin, and his “evolved” form, Sandslash, even boasts a spiky back and tail.

11. How did the pangolin get its name?

The common name “pangolin” comes from the native language of Malaysia. Their various scientific names come from the explorers and zoologists that discovered them.

For example, when a man named Carl Linnaeus found the pangolins in 1758, he named their genus manis after the spirits of Ancient Rome. Their appearance was so strange that he considered it divine.

12. What does “pangolin” mean?

“Pangolin” comes from the Malaysian word pengguling, which means “one who rolls up.” It's a reference to the way that pangolins curl into balls to defend themselves from predators.

13. What is the pangolins Latin name?

There are eight distinct sub-species of pangolins, and each have their own scientific name:

  • Manis javanica (Sunda pangolin)
  • Manis pentadactyla (Chinese pangolin)
  • Manis crassicaudata (Indian pangolin)
  • Manis culionensis (Philippine pangolin)
  • Phataginus tetradactyla (long-tailed pangolin)
  • Phataginus tricuspis (tree pangolin)
  • Smutsia gigantea (giant pangolin)
  • Smutsia temminckii (ground pangolin)

As you can see, pangolins are classified into three different genus groups. These are separated by region:

  • Manis (Asia)
  • Phataginus (Africa)
  • Smutsia (Africa)

Their order name is Pholidota, which means “horny scale” in Greek. Their family name is Manidae. This family is for pangolins and nothing else.

14. Are there any extinct pangolin species?

Yes. There are dozens of extinct species that were either related to or descended from pangolins, including the necromanis.

These creatures were also ground- and tree-dwelling insectivores that had scales, tails, and claws just like pangolins.

15. What other names does the pangolin have?

The pangolin has so many names that you could create your own dictionary with them! They've been prized animals for centuries, so countries all around the world have given them different names and nicknames.

Pangolin walking

Here's a quick list as a reference:

  • Sunda pangolin – Malayan pangolin, Javan pangolin
  • Tree pangolin – White-bellied pangolin, three-cusped pangolin
  • Long-tailed pangolin – Black-bellied pangolin
  • Ground pangolin – Cape pangolin, Temminck's pangolin, giant ground pangolin
  • Indian pangolin – Thick-tailed pangolin
  • Philippine pangolin – Palawan pangolin, balintong

Additionally, all pangolins are nicknamed “scaly anteaters.”

16. Can pangolins swim?

Some of them. It isn't known whether all pangolins can swim, but certain species have been recorded in the water.

The long-tailed pangolin, for example, is a very capable swimmer, and it's almost always found in trees near a water source like a river or a lake.

17. Are pangolins aggressive or friendly?

Pangolins are shy, gentle, and slow-moving creatures. They aren't aggressive at all. While it isn't unheard of for a pangolin to fight back against a predator, most of them prefer to use non-violent defensive tactics like curling into a ball or secreting noxious fumes (farting) to scare the other animal away.

Some pangolins have been trained to accept human contact. For example, they might tolerate someone handling them in a zoo or feeding them in a wildlife sanctuary.

However, it would be a stretch to call the pangolin a friendly creature. They're so shy and secretive that it's hard for scientists to even observe them in the wild.

So they aren't an animal that will climb on your shoulder and perform a trick. Most of the time, they'll curl into a ball and wait for you to go away if you even look at them funny.

18. Do pangolins have teeth?

No. Pangolins don't have teeth, so they can't chew the insects that they consume. They have to swallow them whole.

19. How do pangolins digest their food?

You might be wondering how pangolins can digest all of those insects if they don't chew them. The answer lies in something called gastroliths.

These are rocks that animals deliberately swallow to help them break up the food in their stomachs. This is common in lizards, crocodiles, ostriches, and pangolins.

20. Do pangolins bite?

No. Since they lack teeth, pangolins are incapable of biting.

21. How long do pangolins live?

This is another area where we just don't have a lot of information. The longest that a pangolin has lived in captivity is 12 years, but since captivity is stressful for them, they probably have longer lifespans in the wild.

The general assumption is that they can live for 20 years or so.

22. What eats a pangolin?

The single biggest threat to the pangolin is humans. Humans have hunted, killed, sold, sacrificed and consumed pangolins for thousands of years.

Why are pangolins endangered

And even though conservationists are trying to put a stop to these practices, they still continue in black markets. Humans are definitely the biggest predator to pangolins.

In the wild, pangolins are vulnerable to big cats like lions and leopards. They've also been preyed on by hyenas, tigers and other large mammals.

Newborns are the most vulnerable to attack since they're born with soft scales that only harden as they get older. They have none of the defenses of their parents, so they have to curl under their mother's tail if they want to be protected from snapping jaws.

23. Can a lion eat a pangolin?

It depends. The teeth of a lion can't penetrate the shell of a pangolin, so if the pangolin manages to curl into a hard, tight ball, there's nothing for the lion to do but bat them around and hope that they can get in a lucky nip to their soft underside. You can see this exact thing happen in a rare lion versus pangolin video.

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That said, lions can get lucky, especially if they attack mothers with children that they're trying to defend. Lions kill enough pangolins to be considered one of their natural predators.

24. Are pangolins bulletproof?

There's no indication that pangolins are bulletproof, though their scales have been recognized for having properties that could be useful to bulletproof vests.

The scales have a unique molecular structure that allows them to “bounce back” after being dented. Since bulletproof vests have to be discarded after a hit, researchers are hopeful that they can analyze the properties of pangolin scales and apply them to Kevlar.

25. Do pangolins have electricity?

No. The pangolin doesn't generate any kind of electricity. You might be thinking of the Pokemon characters that were inspired by them!

26. Do pangolins have good eyesight?

No. Pangolins have very poor eyesight, especially in the pitch-black conditions of their nocturnal hunting. They rely on their sense of smell to forage for food.

27. How does a pangolin keep itself safe?

There are a couple of ways that pangolins can defend themselves when a hungry leopard comes along.

The simplest solution is to curl into a ball. This protects their vulnerable bellies while exposing nothing to the predator but their hard, impenetrable scales.

Another defensive tactic used by pangolins is to secrete a foul, cabbage-like smell from their butts whenever they sense that a predator is near.

They can also do this to mark their burrows when they have babies inside. It works a bit like a skunk warning off other animals or making themselves unappealing as prey. To put it another way, their farts can save their lives!

28. Is the pangolin endangered?

Yes. Of the eight pangolin species, two are considered “endangered” and two are listed as “critically endangered,” and the remaining four are considered “vulnerable” as well. Here's the full list:

They've also been noted as “endangered” and “at risk” by CITES. Additionally, they're the most highly-trafficked animal in the world, and they're on all kinds of watchlists in their native countries.

Many conservation groups are pulling together to save the pangolin before it's too late.

29. What are pangolin scales made of?

Pangolin scales are made of keratin. It's the same material that forms human fingernails and hair, and it's quite different from the hard, brittle scales that are on reptiles.

Pangolin scales

It's more flexible, but it can still be a tough and unbreakable barrier when a lion comes along.

30. How many scales does a pangolin have?

The Sunda pangolin has an average of 900 – 1000 scales. This is the only pangolin that we have any real data for, but it's assumed that larger species have a greater number of scales and smaller species have less.

It's also estimated that their scales make up 15 – 20 percent of the pangolin's total body weight!

31. Do pangolin scales ever stop growing?

No. Pangolin scales are always growing. However, they grow at such an infinitesimally slow rate that you can't really notice a difference once they reach sexual maturity.

32. What do pangolins eat?

Pangolins are insectivores that feed primarily on termites and ants. They'll also indulge in worms, flies, lice, and larvae, but their main diet is termites and ants.

They “hunt” by finding an anthill or termite mound and breaking it open. Ground-dwelling pangolins will use their powerful claws to dig into the earth until they strike gold; tree-dwelling pangolins will stick their noses inside hollows or stumps, or they'll use their tails to strip the bark right off the trees.

One species, the giant pangolin, is so large that it's developed a unique method of feeding. It will sit on a termite mound with all of its weight resting on its tail, and it'll leverage that pressure on the mound to easily rip it open.

This is only possible because adult giant pangolins are some of the largest and strongest of the entire pangolin species.

33. How do pangolins eat?

Pangolins are a bit like frogs in the sense that they use their long, sticky tongues to snatch up their prey.

Insects have a hard time escaping the secretions, and even if they manage to get free, there are special muscles in the pangolin's mouth that seal it shut while feeding. There's nowhere for the poor bug to go but down.

34. How many bugs do pangolins eat in a year?

Pangolins are big eaters. According to Born Free, a single pangolin can consume up to 70 million insects per year!

Pangolin eating

35. Do pangolins mate for life?

It isn't known whether pangolins mate for life, but it's unlikely. They're solitary creatures that only come together for breeding purposes.

They prefer to keep their own company in everyday life.

36. How do pangolins attract a mate?

Unlike most species, the females go to the males. The males will leave chemical trails with their urine or feces that signify their readiness to mate, and the female will find them if they're interested. Charming.

Ground pangolins will also have male-versus-male competitions where the female only mates with the winner. The males will beat each other by using their tails as clubs. It isn't known whether other pangolin species have this kind of mating ritual as well.

37. Do pangolins lay eggs?

No. Pangolins are mammals, so they give birth to live young. Moms also produce milk for their babies.

38. How long do baby pangolins live with their mothers?

Young pangolins live with their mothers for two years. In their first few months of life, they never leave the burrow. They have soft scales that won't harden until they're older, so they're completely defenseless against predators.

After one or two months, young pangolins will start to venture out of their burrows and into the world. They mostly ride on mom's tail as she moves around and looks for food. They'll also observe her breaking into termite mounds and learn how to copy her behavior.

At two years old, pangolins are fully mature and ready to live on their own. Their mother usually abandons them, but sometimes, the child will take off first.

39. How big are baby pangolins?

Baby pangolins measure just 5 – 6 inches and weigh between 2.8 – 15.9 ounces. Isn't that darling?

40. What do baby pangolins look like?

Baby pangolins have soft white scales that harden and darken as they age. They're usually hairless; the hair grows in as their bodies get bigger and their snouts lengthen.

Pangolin baby

Their eyes are open at birth. They nurse from their mothers for a few months until she weans them by encouraging them to switch to a diet of insects.

41. Do male pangolins play any role in child-rearing?

This is hard to answer since the data is so scarce, but it doesn't look like male pangolins have much to do with their mates or babies.

A male was once observed allowing a female and a baby to share his burrow, but it isn't known whether they were his biological family or if it was just an arrangement of convenience.

42. Do pangolins carry leprosy?

No. Pangolins have never been known to carry leprosy. In fact…

43. Do pangolins carry diseases?

Pangolins have never been known to carry any viruses or diseases that can be transmitted to humans. However, they can carry ticks and other parasites that come with their own infectious properties.

44. Where does the pangolin live?

The pangolin is scattered throughout Asia and Africa. Four species live on each continent:

Asia

  • Chinese pangolin (southern China and southeast Asia)
  • Indian pangolin (Indian subcontinent)
  • Philippine pangolin (Philippines)
  • Sunda pangolin (southeast Asia)

Africa

  • Long-tailed pangolin (central Africa)
  • Giant pangolin (central Africa)
  • Tree pangolin (central and equatorial Africa)
  • Ground pangolin (central and southern Africa)

45. What is the habitat of the pangolin?

Different pangolins have different habitats. For example, tree pangolins and long-tailed pangolins live in treetops. They use their long, curved tails to maneuver between branches or rip off bark to find the insects underneath.

On the flip side, ground pangolins and giant pangolins prefer the earth to the air. They'll burrow deep underground in forests, deserts, savannas, and woodlands. The Indian pangolin has also been spotted in the mountains.

46. Do pangolins burrow into the ground? How?

Pangolins can burrow underground as deeply as 11 feet. Most of them use their sharp front claws to dig their own tunnels.

But the ground pangolin is a sneaky species that will steal the burrows of aardvarks when opportunity knocks.

47. Do pangolins hibernate?

Not really. Indian pangolins get less active in the winter, but it isn't a true hibernation. It's more of overwintering where they spend more time in their underground burrows because they live at high elevations with cold winds.

48. Do pangolins migrate?

No. Pangolins are slow-moving creatures that stay close to home, so the only reason that they'd migrate to new territory is out of necessity.

For example, they might move if a wildfire burns through their forest, or they might seek higher ground if flooding occurs near their favorite river. But that's about it.

49. Where can I see the pangolin?

It's quite difficult to observe a pangolin in the wild. They're shy creatures that are almost exclusively active at night, and several species burrow underground or camouflage themselves in trees with the express purpose of not being seen.

That said, you might see one with a good tour guide if you're taking an Asian or African safari. There are also pangolins to be found at zoos, wildlife shelters and animal sanctuaries all around the world.

Scales on pangolin

Just make sure that you're visiting a humane, government-approved site that's taking good care of the pangolins and not exploiting them for profit.

Pangolin Conservation Facts

50. What is the most illegally trafficked animal in the world?

Pangolins are the most-trafficked animal in the world. They make up 20% of all illegal animal trafficking, and even conservative estimates put their yearly poaching numbers at 10,000.

 

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More grim assessments put the number of trafficked pangolins at anywhere from 116,000 – 234,00 per year.

51. Why is the pangolin the most trafficked animal?

There are several reasons why pangolins are such a prize in the black market.

For starters, their bodies are used in many different types of traditional medicine. Their blood is considered a healing tonic; their scales are ground into powders or used in poultices to treat various diseases. Pangolin scales are even covered by health insurance plans in Vietnam.

They're also caught and sold for their meat. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in places like China and Vietnam, and it's often sold in restaurants as a rare, high-end dish. Some establishments will put you on a waiting list before you can order it.

Pangolin scales were also considered something of a fashion accessory in the 1990s. They were in high demand to create things like shoes and purses, and they were seen as an expensive luxury item similar to snakeskin bags or elephant ivory jewelry. This practice has mostly died out, but it still lingers in places.

Finally, even well-meaning individuals have harmed the pangolin population by capturing them for display in animal houses. This is why it's important to make sure that your local zoo or wildlife sanctuary is a good one. You don't want your money going towards the illegal seizure of pangolins!

52. What is the pangolin used for?

In traditional medicines, pangolin scales are used to treat everything from foot fungus to poor circulation, so they're always highly valued as a trade item.

They're also bought and sold for a number of spiritual rituals. They're killed for their meat, their blood, and their skin. Sometimes, baby pangolins are even boiled in rice wine to make “pangolin wine.” That's so sad!

53. How much does it cost to buy a pangolin?

A live pangolin is worth almost $1,000. A dead pangolin is usually sold in parts, especially when it's killed for meat; since it's considered a delicacy, the meat can sell for $300 per kilogram.

Please understand that these numbers are only provided for research purposes. You should never, ever, ever buy or sell a pangolin. It's completely illegal, and if you're caught, you could be in a world of trouble with both local and international governments. Plus, it's just wrong.

54. What are pangolin scales worth?

Pangolin scales are currently sold for around $3,000 per kilogram. This price can fluctuate depending on supply and demand.

55. Why are pangolin scales so valuable?

Since pangolin scales have so many uses on the black market, opportunistic sellers can always make a quick buck from them. They're also in high demand, and that drives up their value.

Think of pangolin scales like tiger pelts or rhino horns; the more that they're rare, special, exotic, and “thrillingly” illegal, the more that people want them.

56. How many pangolins are left?

No one knows how many pangolins are left. It could be thousands; it could be hundreds. All that we know for sure is that their populations are decreasing.

57. Can I own a pangolin as a pet?

No. As a protected species, pangolins are illegal to own as a pet. Anyone found shipping them across international borders would face a hefty fine.

58. Why should we save the pangolin?

Aside from the general importance of preserving animal species for the future, pangolins play a critically important “housekeeping” role in their ecosystems.

A single pangolin can consume as many as 70 million insects per year! A hundred pangolins can consume seven trillion insects per year.

If pangolins are allowed to go extinct, these bug populations will quickly spiral out of control, and that would have devastating consequences for everything from agriculture to international business.

59. What can I do to help pangolins?

Have you been moved by the plight of the pangolin? Are you ready to help these sweet, gentle creatures overcome their exploitation? There are plenty of ways to make a difference.

  • Donations. This is the most obvious way to help, and it's also the most efficient. You can donate money to a number of wildlife groups that are assisting with the conservation of pangolins.
  • Shopping. If you like to see the tangible results of your charity, you can buy all sorts of clothes, mugs, gifts, accessories and jewelry pieces that will help the pangolin. For example, you can buy pangolin-themed goodies from a wildlife organization's online store.
  • Awareness. Many people haven't even heard of pangolins and don't know that they need help. If you're willing to host a fundraiser, complete a sponsored walk or even just post about them on social media, you can help to spread the word about their struggle.

 

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  • Activism. Maybe you're burning with the injustice of it all. Maybe you just like to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Reach out to a pangolin organization and ask how you can help: they might need volunteers at one of their shelters, or they might be able to use charity coordinators at their international offices.

60. Can I adopt a pangolin?

You can't adopt a pangolin and take it home. However, there are many wildlife foundations that will allow you to “adopt” a pangolin as a symbolic gesture.

 

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Your funds will go towards pangolin conservation efforts, and you'll receive a certificate and maybe a stuffed animal to commemorate your adoption.

Dinosaurs or Dragons? The Reality of Pangolins

Pangolins are some of the weirdest creatures on Earth. They've been called dragons and prehistoric dinosaurs; they've been confused with aardvarks, armadillos, and anteaters; they've inspired the creation of Pokemon.

They've also been hunted to near-extinction. Beneath their cute little pillbug rolls, they're extremely vulnerable creatures that need our help if they're going to survive.

What do you think? Have you learned anything interesting from these pangolin facts? Still have questions? Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to get back to you!

More about Drew

Drew Haines

Drew Haines is an animal enthusiast who enjoys travel and photography. She graduated high school at sixteen and started her own business, Everywhere Wild.

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