Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
Found: Tropical regions throughout Africa and Aisa
Size: 30 – 100cm
Weirdest Features: Super-scaley, smelly like a skunk and loooooong noodle-like tongue!
Funny Little Faces
These adorable little creatures are some of the funniest looking animals out there! Their body is covered in big overlapping scales made of keratin (just like your fingernails!) which makes them look a little bit like a long-nosed pine cone! They also have a really long tail which they tuck under themselves (and their face under their tail) when they get scared; they curl up into a defensive little ball and with their hard, sharp scales offering protection.
But it’s not just their scales they use to protect themselves, Pangolins have short legs but sharp claws. These are great for burrowing and climbing (and trying to look threatening) but the front claws make it a little difficult to walk; the pangolin instead with walk on their hind legs, with it’s front paws curled over, using their long tail for balance.
Remember when we said they were as smelly like a skunk? That’s because near their anus they have they glands that can release noxious-smelling acid… eww! Who new something so cute could be so smelly?
But of course, the weirdest and best thing about Pangolins are their not-so little tongues and adorable little faces. The tongue of the Pangolin isn’t attached to their hyoid bone (similar to giant anteaters), it extends past their pharynx and deep into their thorax. This basically makes the tongue reallyyyyyy long – some can extend theirs up to 40cm! But they’re not just long, they’re thin as well with a diameter of just 0.5cm – Noodle tongue! Can you imagine him trying to eat spaghetti?
Life As A Pangolin
A bit like most students, most Pangolins are nocturnal (except the long-tailed pangolin but he’s the exception and we don’t talk about him…); they spend their days curled up in a little ball sleeping. Wait. They’re exactly like students.
Different species of Pangolin live in different areas; some you’ll find living in hollow trees, others you’ll find burrowed underground but all love a good swim!
All Pangolins love bugs! Their diet is said to be insectivorous. The tree-living Pangolins will often hang from branches by their tales and strip away the bark looking for insect nests in the trees. Others, who prefer life a little closer to the ground will often tear their way through anthills and termite mounds looking for a little snack. Their eyesight isn’t so good so they mostly rely on smell and sound; it works too, they usually eat around 140 – 200g of insects per day!
Eating’s where their awesome tongue comes in again too! Pangolins have a gland in their chest which secretes a saliva onto the tongue which makes it a super-sticky ant trap! The Pangolin then just has to stick their tongue into an anthill or termite mound or some kind of insect nest, have a wiggle around and he’s got himself a buffet!
The one down side to a sticky tongue is that occasionally the Pangolin will pick up a few rocks alongside his all-you-can-eat bug feast, but that’s ok! They don’t have any teeth, so the ingested rocks help grind up the bugs in their stomach. Yum!
Save The Pangolin!
By now you’ve probably guessed I love Pangolins! They’re adorable and funny and clever (even if they are a little blind) which is why it’s so sad that they’re Critically Endangered.
In too many parts of Africa, Pangolins are hunted for their meat and scales. In China and Vietnam there’s a huge demand; their meat is a delicacy and their scales are used in medicine (they are supposedly able to cure asthma or cancer when ground up, but, strangely enough, there’s no proof of this). In the past, even clothing has been made out of their skin. But it’s not just hunting endangering them, deforestation has destroyed their homes and led to a decrease in the number of Giant Pangolins.
Thankfully there are laws banning people trading their meat, skin and scales, however illegal trading still occurs. In response, in 2014 the IUCN SSC Pangolian Specialist Group launched a global conservation campaign.
Spread the word about these Noodle-Tongued little guys and help Save The Pangolin!