Pangolins are the only mammals known to have plate-like scales; when threatened, they roll up into a ball, with the scales forming an armoured exterior. The scales are made of keratin, the same protein that makes up human hair and nails, which hardens as the pangolins reach maturity.
Similar to skunks, pangolins can secrete a foul smelling odour from the glands near their anus, which they use to mark their territory as a deterrent. Pangolins are nocturnal and have poor eyesight, relying on their hearing and sense of smell to locate their prey at night. Long, powerful, curved claws tear open anthills or termite mounds, and with no teeth, they use a sticky elongated tongue to retrieve insects.
Tending to be solitary animals, pangolins meet only to mate. The gestation period depends on the species, but they all give birth to a single offspring. The young pangolin stays with its mother for around three to four months and grips onto its mother’s tail while foraging for insects.
*International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species.
Chinese and Sunda pangolins are Critically Endangered, Indian and Philippine pangolins are Endangered and the remaining species of pangolins are classified as Vulnerable
Declining ⬇️ – little is known about the population numbers of pangolins, but all eight species have a decreasing population trend
Carnivorous/insectivorous – ants, termites and larvae
Hollow trees or underground burrows, depending on the species, in tropical and sub-tropical forests, thick bush, grasslands and open savannah
Eight species of pangolin have been identified, four of which are found in Asia and four in Africa
Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammals.
With high levels of hunting and poaching for the illicit trade in their meat and scales – for traditional medicines in Asia, primarily in China and Vietnam – there has been a dramatic decrease in pangolin populations over the last 15 years.
Deforestation of their natural habitats is also an issue.
Born Free lobbies to raise awareness of the plight of wild pangolins, plus investigates the illegal poaching and illicit trade in pangolin by-products.
We support the Sangha Pangolin Project who rehabilitate rescued and orphaned pangolins, and return them back to the wild.