Ant eaters are rad and all but are they as awesome as pangolins? Maybe, maybe not. So here’s an informational post about the only scaled mammal.
While there are 8 subspecies, these are ‘ground pangolins’ which are found in my home country of South Africa. They are wholly myrmecophagous (they only eat ants and termites) though they’re pretty picky about which kinds of ants and termites they eat, preferring certain species over others.
They vary from 3.5-7.3lb / 1.6-3.3kg so not terribly big animals. Their scales are made out of keratin (basically your hair and fingernails) and make up about 20% of their body weight. When threatened, they curl up into a ball, puff and hiss, and lash out with their tails. They also are also capable of emitting a noxious acid from anal glands similar to skunks.
They’re nocturnal and can dig their own burrows but prefer to live in those abandoned by warthogs or aardvarks. They’re solitary animals and only interact for reproducing. We don’t really know a whole lot more about them as they’ve proven difficult to study in the wild.
Their tongue is technically longer than their entire body due to being connected internally near their pelvis. They have no external ears so have poor hearing as well as poor vision however they have a strong sense of smell.
Now the bad part. It is estimated that 100,000 are captured each year from across Africa and Asia, with most shipped to China and Vietnam where their meat is prized as a delicacy and their scales are supposed to cure everything from acne to cancer. It is estimated that pangolin scales make up 20% of the black-market trade in protected animals. It is unknown how many are left in the wild. As a result all eight species feature on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Rest List of animals threatened with extinction.
I’ve personally never seen one as they’re very rare in South Africa, with only 73 sightings in the last 20 years.
Pangolin pup tax (yes they ride around on their mothers)