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5 fun facts about pangolins


Did you know that February 18th is World Pangolin Day? Do you know what a pangolin (say "pang-uh-lin") is? Well, if not, you’re in luck because Mr. Orlando is here with some cool facts about this hard shelled, widely hunted and endangered creature. Maybe you will be inspired to join the effort to help save these super neat mammals also known as ‘scaly anteaters’!

FACT: There are eight species of pangolin — and they are all quite different!

Photo by Rusland Rugoals licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Pangolins are mostly found across Asia and south of the Saharan desert in Africa. They range in size from 1.6 kgs (about the same weight as 10 hamsters) to 33 kgs (about as heavy as 4 wiener dogs). Male pangolins are usually twice the size of the females. Pangolins range in colour from a light yellowish brown, to a dark olive and brown. Some have hairs or bristles between their scales while others don’t. Their underbellies are coated in a thick fur instead of scales like the rest of their bodies. Although they look more like sloths, armadillos or anteaters, they actually belong to the same animal family as dogs, cats and bears.

FACT: We don’t know a lot about them because they’re so secretive.

Wikimedia/EdgeofMidnight/CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientists have a hard time studying these nocturnal (awake and most busy during the night), and solitary (live and work alone) animals in the wild. There are a lot of mysteries about the habits of the pangolin. Some species of pangolin in China sleep in burrowed holes in the ground while some species in Africa and Malaysia sleep in trees. They are very good at digging and burrowing into the ground. In the colder months in China, they will dig huge holes into the ground near a termite nest to have lots to eat for the winter. Pangolin burrows have been found that are big enough for a person to climb into and stand up in!

FACT: Their tongues can be longer than their bodies!

Photo by Rusland Rugoals licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A pangolin’s tongue is very strong and can be longer than its entire body! Their tongues are covered in a sticky slime that helps to catch ants and termites hiding in every narrow crevice of an ant or termite nest. They aren’t vicious and they don’t have teeth. They have poor eyesight but a very good sense of smell to help them find ants and termites to eat.

FACT: Their scaly exterior is like a built in coat of armour.

Photo by Alan licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Very thick, overlapping, protective scales make up the pangolin’s outer shell. The scales are made of keratin which is the same stuff that our fingernails and hair are made of. Their eyes have thick lids and their ears and nose can also close completely tight so ants can’t get in when they swarm and attack. Pangolins can also roll up into a tight ball to protect themselves and their babies when there is danger.

FACT: Pangolins walk on their back legs and use their tail for balance.

Photo by Bart Wursten licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

They have huge front claws so they can’t use their front legs for walking. Their giant claws are also very strong and used for destroying clay mounds filled with ants or termites and for climbing or burrowing. Instead of their front legs, they use their tails to help them balance while they walk which gives them a unique kind of funny wobble to their walk!