Pangolin numbers are rapidly declining in Asia and Africa.
The shy, harmless pangolin is becoming increasingly well known for one reason: It’s believed to be the world’s most trafficked non-human mammal. Tens of thousands of pangolins are poached every year.
The demand for pangolins comes mostly from China, where pangolin scales are unfortunately believed to be a cure-all of sorts and pangolin flesh is considered a delicacy. In Vietnam, pangolins are frequently offered at restaurants catering to wealthy patrons who want to eat rare and endangered wildlife. There is no evidence to support claims regarding medicinal properties of pangolin scales or any other part of the pangolin.
The aim of World Pangolin Day is to draw as much attention to pangolins as possible, since they are relatively unknown outside of Africa and Asia. There are eight species of pangolin whose conservation status is listed in the threatened tier.
Pangolins play a critical role in their ecosystems. They provide the earth with all-natural pest control and are fantastic tenders of soil, and they do these things simply through their everyday behaviors. It is said that a single pangolin consumes as many as 70 million insects per year, mainly ants and termites.
Its scales are actually made up of keratin, which accounts for about 20 percent of its weight. It has a small head and a long, broad tail. It has no external ears, but its hearing is quite good. It also has no teeth and instead possesses a gizzard-like stomach that is specially adapted for grinding food. To assist the grinding, this scaly creature consumes small stones and sand.
Pangolins are solitary and active mostly at night. Most live on the ground, but some, like the black-bellied pangolin, also climb trees. They range in size from a large housecat to more than four feet long. They are largely covered in scales made of keratin — the same material as human fingernails — which gives them the nickname "scaly anteater." When threatened, they roll into ball, like an armadillo, and they can release a stinky fluid from a gland at the base of their tails as a defense mechanism. Like anteaters, pangolins have long snouts and even longer tongues, which they use to lap up ants and termites they excavate from mounds with their powerful front claws. They’re able to close their noses and ears to keep ants out when they’re eating. Though they look and act a lot like anteaters and armadillos, pangolins are more closely related to bears, cats, and dogs.