Pangolins are also known as scally anteaters mainly because of its appearance and diet. The name pangolin was derived from the word ‘penggulung’ which means roller. There are about eight existing species of pangolin, namely the Indian pangolin, Chinese pangolin, Sunda pangolin, Philippine pangolin, tree pangolin, giant pangolin tree pangolin and Temminck’s ground pangolin. They have a wide spread across Asia and Africa.
It was in the year 1821 that this species belonging to Manidae family was officially declared to world. And now it has been declared as the most trafficked mammal.
The physical appearance can vary from one type of pangolin to the other type. Its weight may vary from 1.6 kg to maximum of 33 kg. And the colour may vary from light to dark brown. Pangolin body is entirely covered with scales made up of keratin. These scales grow just like our hair and nails. They serve as a protection when there is any threat.
Pangolins have a really long sticky tongue which helps in easy capture of its prey. Asian pangolins have thick bristles that emerge from between its scales, unlike the African pangolin. This tongue when extended can be as long as its body and when in rest it contracts and rolls into its chest cavity.
They have stout limbs which are well adapted for digging. Their forefeet has long curved claw to demolish termites nest. They are capable swimmers and can run very fast.
The archaeological sources say that pangolins are originates of Europe but the extant species are found in regions of Asia and Africa.
They are found in variety of habitats such as cultivated and cleared areas, tropical or flooded forests and Savannah grasslands.
The predominant diet of pangolins are ants and termites. And sometimes when there is no availability of termites they also feed on other invertebrates like larvae, worms, bees, flies, earthworms and crickets.
The male pangolins are heavier than females. And they are dimorphic. Pangolins attain their sexual maturity at the age of two. The gestation period is 60-75 days in Indian pangolins and in African pangolins it may be extended upto 139 days. They end up giving birth to one offspring at a time and in some rare cases it may be two or three also.
The new born is about six inch long and weighs around 0.35kg. Their scales are pale yellow and very slender during their birth. After two days of its birth it starts developing scales and feeds on ants. And if there is any threat the mother rolls the baby and nurses it. The new born is nurtured by its mother for about three to four months.
Pangolins are hunted for meat in many parts of Asia as it is considered as a delicacy. They are also hunted for its scales as it is believed to have many medicinal values which can cure many diseases.
Pangolins have been the most trafficked mammals as there is a belief among East Asian people that it is the cure for many deadly diseases such as cancer.
Interesting facts about Pangolin
- Their scales constitutes for about 20% of its body weight
- They lack teeth which makes it unfit for chewing, instead to use their long sticky tongue to catch prey and then they swallow it.
- The most endangered pangolins are the Sunda pangolin and Chinese pangolin
- These animals tighten their ears and nostrils to keep insects while feeding.
- They have poor vision and hearing, but they have strong smell sense.
- They have an average life span of 20 years