Brief Overview: Pangolins, or sometimes known as scaly anteaters, are mammals that belong to the Manidae family. The Pangolins name translates from Ancient Greek words “horny scale.” The pangolins may have similar looks to the armadillo and anteater; however, it is actually not related to either animal or comes from their family. The pangolins are protected under international wildlife laws as it has often been hunted with two of its species already critically endangered.
Species and Appearance: There are currently eight species of pangolins in the whole world with the largest being the Giant Pangolin. The African Giant pangolin can reach 50 – 55 inches in length or more than four feet and weigh up to 70 – 73 pounds. The smallest would be the Asian Black-bellied Pangolin reaching one to three feet, or 10 – 21 inches in length. The Asian pangolins, the Philippine Pangolin, the Chinese Pangolin, the Indian Pangolin, and the Sunda Pangolin. The African pangolins have two species each living in the Sub-Saharan areas. These are: The Temmick’s Pangolin, the Giant Pangolin, the Black-Bellied Pangolin, and the White Bellied Pangolin.
Habitats and Locations: The pangolins are known to live in sandy areas that are close to water sources like lakes and rivers. This includes biomes such as deserts, savannahs, tropical forests, grasslands, and wooded areas. From the eight species of pangolins, they are divided by two groups of four and located in Asia and Africa. In Africa, the pangolins can be found mostly in the central and southern parts of Africa. In Asia, the pangolins are spread out across the continent. They can be found across all of India, into southern china, then spread through other southeastern countries into all of the Philippines.
Survival and Behavior: Like the New world anteaters, the pangolins have long snouts but even longer tongues that can extend about 40-41 cm, which is 15 inches in length, from its mouth and are recognized by their small cone-shaped head, small ears, short legs, and armored tail. Unlike their anteater counterparts, the pangolin’s body is similar to an armadillo based on its defenses. Its body is mostly covered in keratin scales that act as a tough, sharp, armor against predators. These scales cover the animal except for their snout, eyes, claws, and their soft underpart. When threatened, they curl into a ball exposing their sharp scales in order to protect themselves from harm. Pangolins are very shy creatures and they live mostly alone, sometimes in pairs. They are nocturnal creatures and only come out during the night, so they rest up during the daytime inside their burrows or inside hollow trees. They use their keen sense of smell, their snouts, to locate the ants and termite’s homes, using their claws to dig up their nests, and eat them with their long tongues.
Diet and Predators: They can mostly be found where there is a large number of ants and termites. Their prey consists primarily of insects, mostly ants and termites. Their natural predators, besides humans, are those from the giant feline family, mostly lions, tigers, and leopards. Their scales can do a good deal of damage against the cat’s thick skin; however, it does not always secure it safety when it is pushed on its back.
Breeding and Lifespan: The pangolin’s mating season happens between May to July. Males typically fight each other for the right to breed the female for three to five days. A female pangolin’s pregnancy varies on the species; a female ground pangolin can be about 139 days while an Indian pangolin is 68 days. During pregnancy, the mother will curl into a ball to shield itself and the baby from any danger. Baby pangolins are called pangopups, they are born with soft scales that will harden in one to two days after birth. The pangopups will stay with their mother, riding on their tails, and drink their mother’s milk until it reaches three to four months old. It will soon eat insects like its mother 1 month afterwards. Some of the pangolin males will stay with the mother and the child until the child starts to become independent. For these shy pangolins that live in the wild, their lifespan is still unknown. However, when they are in captivity, they have been recorded to live up to 20 years.