There are 8 species of pangolin. There are 4 species native to Africa, and they are the the African white-bellied pangolin, giant pangolin, ground pangolin, and black-bellied pangolin. Four species are native to Asia. They are the Chinese pangolin, Sunda pangolin, Indian pangolin, and Philippine pangolin. The Asian species are listed as endangered and critically endangered, and the African species are listed as vulnerable.
The pangolin is the only mammal that is covered in scales. Their scales are made of keratin, which is the same stuff our fingernails are made of. Their scales are sharp and provide protection from predators. They curl up into a ball to protect their undersides and face.
Another defense mechanism they have is they are able to secrete a foul-smelling fluid from glands near their anus kind of like a skunk. They also use it to mark their territory.
Pangolins are insectivores. They eat ants, termites, larvae, and other insects. They are great at controlling termite and ant populations and are also called “the scaly anteater.”
Pangolins use their excellent sense of smell to find insects and also have good hearing. They have poor vision though.
They use their claws to dig to find prey. Their tongues are very long, which are used to reach into insect tunnels. Their saliva is sticky so the insects get stuck to their tongue. The largest pangolin tongues can be 16 inches long! They do not have teeth. Instead, they ingest small stones that help grind up their food in their gizzard.
Depending on the species, they are 12 to 50 inches (4.2 feet) long. The largest is the giant pangolin. They can get up 70 pounds. Males are larger than females.
Most pangolin species are nocturnal and sleep during the day.
Pangolins are considered the most trafficked mammal in the world. Some people believe their scales have medicinal uses even though they have never been scientifically proven to have any medical value.
Check out this National geographic video: Pangolins: The Most Trafficked Mammal You’ve Never Heard Of