5 Facts about pangolins

5 interesting facts about pangolins



Pangolins are the world's most endangered and little-known animals. Let's uncover intriguing facts about these remarkable, unique and gentle creatures.

Wildlife trade

Pangolins are the cutest animal you probably never heard of – but they hold a world record. Sadly, this is not a positive one: pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world. We would like to increase awareness of these truly amazing prehistoric-looking creatures by sharing our favourite facts about them.

Read on to learn more about pangolins!



Bon Appétit!

Pangolins are also known as “scaly anteaters” because…you guessed it, they feed on ants. They are insectivorous, so their diet also includes termites, larvae and other small insects.

It's a hard shell life

Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same protein that makes up our own hair and nails and many animals’ claws. The scales cover almost their whole body (except their underside) and they make up roughly 20% of their body weight.



They see me rollin'

Their name, “pangolin”, is derived from the Malay word “pengguling”, which loosely translates to “something that rolls up” – and indeed, they do! To defend themselves when feeling threatened, the small mammals roll up in a ball, similarly to hedgehogs and armadillos.



Hanging in there

Some species, such as the long-tailed pangolin, have prehensile tails that help with climbing in trees and hanging from branches. Hang in there, pangolins!

Spiky on the outside, gummy on the inside

Pangolins do not have teeth and are unable to chew. Instead, they have long sticky tongues that they use to catch the insects they feed on. Their tongues can be up to 16 inches long!



Wildlife trafficking

One more fact: The biggest threat to pangolins is man. These animals are hunted and mercilessly killed for their scales to be sold on the black market, for use in traditional Asian medicine. All 8 species of pangolins are featured on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, on par with rhinos and tigers. Even national treasure David Attenborough named them in his list of top 10 endangered animals.

How to help pangolins

To combat the global trade in their bodies and scales and to protect pangolins from the unimaginable suffering they endure we are calling for: 

  • Strong enforcement of national and international laws  
  • Removal of pangolins from the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China – the traditional medicine handbook for the industry.  
  • Investment in and promotion of herbal and synthetic alternatives.
  • Combined and coordinated efforts by governments, NGOs and the traditional Asian medicine community to eliminate consumer demand for pangolin-based traditional Asian medicines, particularly in China and Vietnam.   
  • Support for alternative livelihoods, alleviation of poverty and education programmes within rural communities wherever pangolins are found globally, to stop the slaughter.  

Find out more in our report Suffering at scale

World Animal Protection is calling on the UK government to champion a global wildlife trade ban and end the import and export of wild animals into the UK at the G20 meeting of leaders in November.

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