The Amazing World Of Pangolins

The Amazing World Of Pangolins

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These enigmatic creatures are one of our African Endangered Species and are just absolutely awesome......just so easy to fall in love with them.

Pangolins are mammals, and not reptiles as people often think. They have a unique beauty and they are totally harmless which unfortunately makes it so much easier to capture them. They have no teeth and even though they are covered in tough overlapping keratin scales, it does not protect them against poachers and the task of tracking them down is about the most difficult part of the cowardice “hunting act. Their scales make up about 20percent of their body weight and are a potent defense against their natural predators.

Pangolins have a long sticky tongue, often longer than the length of their body and when they are not using it to find a meal in deep crevices, is stored in its chest cavity. Because of the length of its tongue, it is attached to the bottom of its ribcage near the pelvis. This is a truly amazing little mammal.
They are called Pangolins, derived from a Malay word ‘Penggulling’, meaning “rolling over” or to “roll up”, and that is exactly what they do when they feel threatened, they very quickly roll into a little ball.

Pangolin Rolled Into A Ball When Threatened

Pangolins curl into a ball when they feel threatened.

Pangolins are insectivores and eat mainly ants, larvae, and termites and they use their claws to dig holes and break open mounds where they smell their next meal deep under the earth. Their long tongue then reaches into crevices and collects the food. They also swallow small stones to aid them in crushing and digesting their food. Now doesn’t THAT make them just so different from most other creatures their size? They live in underground burrows, usually near water sources, and are nocturnal animals, so they spend most of their days sleeping and they forage for food at night. Like every other mammal, they have a way of telling others not to enter their territory by secreting a pungent fluid from a gland near their anus. (Pity they don’t use this tactic in continual squirts to deter poachers).

Female Pangolins have a gestation period of five months and then give birth to just ONE pup. Baby Pangolins are called Pangopups, and are plus-minus 15.4 cm long and weigh about 340 grams. The scales of the pangopups are soft and pink at birth but start to harden after a day.

Baby Pang Riding On Mommy's Back


Pangopups ride on mommys back for a while

The pangopup often rides on mommy’s tail and suckles mother’s milk for the first 3 to 4 months. The pangopup only starts eating insects from a month old and reaches sexual maturity at age two when they can find a partner and start a family of their own.

There are eight different species of Pangolin that vary in size from about 30cm to a whopping 99cm and weight from 1.6kg to 33kg. Pangolins can be found across Asia and Africa and sadly, they are currently the most trafficked and most threatened groups of mammals in the world, despite the so called arm of the law which clearly doesn’t reach far enough to keep them protected.

Meet the different Pangolin species.

Asian pangolins:

  • Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica): Critically Endangered

Sunda Pangolin

Sunda Pangolin

  •  Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata): Endangered
  • Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis): Endangered
  • Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla): Critically Endangered.

African pangolins:

  • Cape or Temminck's Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii): Vulnerable
  • White-bellied or Tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis): Vulnerable


  • Giant Ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea): Vulnerable

  • Black-bellied or Long-tailed pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla): Vulnerable.

 What are the biggest threats to pangolins?

Pangolin Scales.

In Asia, their scales are used in traditional medicine in particular in Vietnam and China. People are made to believe that Pangolin scales treat a myriad of ailments as well as serious diseases, even though there is NO EVIDENCE of this and NOT PROVEN AT ALL.  African Endangered Species .....The scales are sold per kg at astronomical prices and unfortunately, too many poachers still get away with selling large quantities on the international market.

Beautiful Scales Of The Pangolin

Pangolin Scales

There has been a significant increase in the trafficking of African Pangolin scales since 2008 from West and Central Africa to Asian markets as Pangolins in Asia are now rare and critically endangered.

Pangolin Meat.

In Southeast Asia, Pangolins are consumed as a delicacy and a luxury product, as they believe that eating Pangolin meat demonstrates wealth and status due to the rarity of the meat as well as the high price paid for it. Influential businessmen, in particular, use this “status” to impress clients to help sign important business deals and contracts. 

Pangolin Meat - Blackmarket

I feel a heart wrenching sadness and anger at the thought of these amazing mammals being consumed as a status symbol, and personally, I think it indicates a total LACK OF RESPECT for life.

West and Central Africa is also very big on the Pangolin meat list, but there Pangolin meat is consumed as a ‘regular’ wild meat by these people and has nothing to do with status, but rather as a source of protein, thus local trade is more popular than international trade.

My question is “How could we bring a message to them to think differently?”

Confiscated Pangolins Being Inspected

Confiscated Pangolins Being Inspected

Recent estimates suggest that more than 895 000 Pangolins have been trafficked (that we know of) globally between 2000 and 2019. From 2019 the latest data shows that up to 400 000 pangolins are hunted and consumed in Central Africa each year. If this doesn’t rip your heart out then I don’t know what will!

Other Threats.

Deforestation Causing Pangolin De-population

Illegal logging and deforestation are yet another reason why our precious Pangolins are becoming so critically endangered. They are left with no habitat to survive and thrive in. Forest losses span for hectares and hectares without the proper, or in many cases, without any so called law enforcement or protection in place. For instance, in Palawan, deforestation still continues despite the ban imposed in 1991, which has led to the Philippine Pangolin now being endangered.

Palm Oil Farming 

Palm Oil Farming 

Large areas of Pangolin habitat are being destroyed just about in every location where Pangolins once lived, to make way for farming maize to feed other animals and to harvest palm oil.

Products Made From Palm Oil

All for human consumption. Farmers do not give it a single thought that the habitat of Pangolins is being decimated and thus the Pangolin itself. Even the authorities that are supposed to care about the wellbeing of Pangolins are not present and informed enough to help protect the very mammal that they once promised to do.

Farmland also produces many other threats not often spoken of, like pesticides

Pesticides kill the habitat of our precious pangolins

Pesticides Sprayed

that reduce and often totally eliminate the ant and termite populations and therefore reduce the food necessary for Pangolins to survive.

What’s the answer to that??? It feels pretty desperate to me!

Despite international protection put in place for the illicit international trading of Pangolins, we still lose thousands of Pangolin lives each year.

The purpose of The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species is to protect wildlife species, and see that they DO NOT go extinct due to international trade. Therefore, every Pangolin species was included in the CITES Appendix in 1995, which meant that trade would be watched like a hawk and strictly regulated, yet no export quotas for wild caught specimens, in particular, for the Asian Pangolins was established.

 Where does that leave our Pangolins……ALL OF THEM! Who WILL ‘fight’ for THEM?

Here is a list of organizations and groups that are ALL OUT and ALL IN, working really hard to give these precious mammals a voice and to rescue and conserve PANGOLINS in a desperate attempt to grow their numbers in the wild! This is NOT AN EASY TASK and they need ALL the help they can get.



The Heartbeat of African Pewter.

At African Pewter we make it our mission to educate and create awareness of the endangered species on our planet. Our heartbeat is to support the organizations that work so hard to do what they do and never have enough funds. The small-scale sculptures and pieces of pewter art that we create are a mixture of endangered, keystone, popular and common animals and are created with much love and with a specific strategy in mind. Every item you purchase from us helps us help them

We currently support two animal charity groups.

The African Pangolin Working Group and Blankets for Baby Rhinos

As a matter of interest.

Pangolins are a keystone species and are extremely important and valuable to the ecosystem. They directly impact a variety of other species that feed on the plants targeted by the insects that the Pangolins feed on, as it is estimated that one Pangolin consumes about 70 million ants and termites per year.

Jez’s Story.

“I was fortunate enough to rescue a pangolin in Johannesburg in 2004 and ever since have been passionate about trying to help them and educate people about their plight.

A witch doctor tried to sell a pangolin to me at our premises near Muldersdrift. I had never seen one before and this poor creature was so smelly and scared, rolled up in a ball at the bottom of an old fertilizer bag.

The guy had brought it in a taxi from Zambia. I knew it was illegal to trade these animals so contacted a friend at the Joburg Zoo who sent someone around to arrest the witch doctor and take the pangolin to safety.

They called it Peter the Pangolin. It was totally dehydrated and undernourished. They managed to feed him back to health, took him for daily walks in the Melville koppies then realized it was a female and called her Peta. When she was back to full health and able to fend for herself they put a tracking device on her and set her free in the Kruger National Park.”

Pangolin Africa has a fantastic documentary called “Eye of the Pangolin” on the 4 African Pangolins. I have shared the link below. You will miss out if you don't watch it!

Most of the pics in this article were taken from the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and depict the true Pangolin as they are in their natural environment.

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