Quantcast
Animals
Benjamin Tupper

10 Facts About Pangolins on World Pangolin Day

By Elly Pepper

Do you know what a pangolin is? Where it lives? Why it's so endangered?

Most people don't. But World Pangolin Day, which falls on Feb. 17, is a great place to start. So here are 10 facts—some fun, some not so fun—about one of the world's most vulnerable but least-known species.


1. The word "pangolin" comes from the Malay word "penggulung," which means "roller." When it's threatened, a pangolin will curl itself into a tight ball, which is impenetrable to predators, but makes them easy prey for poachers.

2. There are eight pangolin species—four in Asia and four in Africa. Pangolins are found throughout much of southeastern and eastern Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and across sub-Saharan Africa. They occupy a diverse array of habitats including tropical forests, grasslands, savannas and deciduous forests.

3. Pangolins are the only mammals that are covered in scales, which are made of keratin—just like our hair and finger nails.

4. Pangolins are the most trafficked wild animal in the world, with more than one million poached over the last decade. In Asia, pangolin scales, blood and fetuses are used to purportedly treat conditions like liver problems, skin issues, palsy and swelling, despite the fact that they lack any medicinal or therapeutic value. Pangolins also are considered delicacies in some Asian countries, with their meat selling for up to $200 per kilogram. Secondary threats to pangolins include habitat loss and the African bush meat trade.

5. Due to these threats, all eight species are listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List as either Endangered (extremely high risk of extinction), Endangered (very high risk of extinction) or Vulnerable (high risk of extinction). All eight species are also listed under Appendix I—the highest level of protection—of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans all commercial trade in the species.

6. Now that pangolins in Asia have all but disappeared, the illegal trade is turning to African pangolins. Large shipments from African countries bound for China and Viet Nam are seized regularly.

7. Pangolins can consume up to 20,000 ants and termites a day (more than 70 million a year) using their long, sticky tongues, which are often longer than their body when fully extended.

8. Pangolins are extremely vulnerable to stress, making them very difficult to keep in captivity. Most die within six months of capture.

9. Pangolins produce only one offspring per year, making it all the more difficult for the species to recover from poaching pressure.

10. Pangolins have large, curved claws that they use for excavating ant and termite nests, as well as for pulling bark off trees and logs to find their insect prey.

These curious creatures may not have the iconic status of elephants or tigers—two other highly endangered species—but they are just as deserving of protection. Let's use World Pangolin Day to learn about them and spread awareness of their existence and vulnerability.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Pexels

Cosmos Offers Clues to the Fate of Humans on Earth

By Marlene Cimons

Astrophysicist Adam Frank sees climate change through a cosmic lens. He believes our present civilization isn't the first to burn up its resources—and won't be the last. Moreover, he thinks it's possible the same burnout fate already might have befallen alien worlds. That's why he says the current conversation about climate change is all wrong. "We shouldn't be talking about saving the planet, because the Earth will go on without us," he said. "We should be talking about saving ourselves."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Chicago skyline on April 20, 2017. Chris Favero / CC BY-SA 2.0

Big Cities, Bright Lights: Ranking the Worst Light Pollution on Earth

By Dipika Kadaba

The amount of artificial lighting is steadily increasing every year around the planet. It's a cause for celebration in remote villages in Africa and the Indian sub-continent that recently gained access to electricity for the first time, but it is also harming the health and well-being of residents of megacities elsewhere that continue to get bigger and brighter every year.

Health impacts of this artificial illumination after daylight hours range from depression to cancer, including a range of sleep disorders.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
velkr0 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Texas Supreme Court Rules Cities Cannot Ban Plastic Bags

The Texas Supreme Court struck down the city of Laredo's plastic bag ban—a decision that will likely overturn similar bans in about a dozen other cities, including Austin, Fort Stockton and Port Aransas.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Ryan Zinke visits Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota on May 25. Sherman Hogue / U.S. Dept. of the Interior

Report: Trump Admin. Suppressing Media Access of Government Scientists

A new Trump administration protocol requires U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists to run interview requests with the Department of the Interior, its parent agency, before speaking to journalists, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move is a departure from past media practices that allowed government scientists to quickly respond to journalists' inquiries, according to unnamed USGS employees interviewed by the Times.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Icebergs calving from an ice shelf in West Antarctica. NASA / GSFC / Jefferson Beck / CC BY-SA 2.0

Good News From Antarctica: Rising Bedrock Could Save Vulnerable Ice Sheet

After last week's disturbing news that ice melt in Antarctica has tripled in the last five years, another study published Thursday offers some surprising good news for the South Pole and its vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

The study, published in Science by an international research team, found that the bedrock below the WAIS is rising, a process known as "uplift," at record rates as melting ice removes weight, potentially stabilizing the ice sheet that scientists feared would be lost to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Soybeans with cupped leaves, a symptom of dicamba injury. University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Dicamba Damage Roars Back for Third Season in a Row

University weed scientists have reported roughly 383,000 acres of soybean injured by a weedkiller called dicamba so far in 2018, according to University of Missouri plant sciences professor, Kevin Bradley.

Dicamba destroys mostly everything in its path except the crops that are genetically engineered (GE) to resist it. The drift-prone chemical can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring non-target fields. Plants exposed to the chemical are left wrinkled, cupped or stunted in growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Memphis Meats

FDA Takes First Steps to Regulating Lab-Grown Meat

By Dan Nosowitz

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—has long been enticing for its potential environmental, social and economic benefits.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Scott Pruitt speaking at meeting at the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC, on Jan. 17. Lance Cheung / USDA

Breaking: Sierra Club Demands Pruitt’s Emails After Only 1 Disclosed by EPA

As part of ongoing litigation, the Sierra Club has demanded that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) search Scott Pruitt's personal email accounts for work-related emails, or certify clearly and definitively that the administrator has never used personal email for work purposes. The demand comes on the heels of a successfully litigated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's email and other communications with all persons and parties outside the executive branch. These facts were first reported in Politico early this morning.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!