What Is a Pangolin? 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

What Is a Pangolin?

An African Pangolin pictured in Zimbabwe in September 2016. (Getty)

The question of “What is the most hunted mammal in the world?” has been answered. On February 11, Google has chosen to honor the Giant pangolin, the most trafficked animal in the world. According to the search engine’s blog on the species, they are the only scaly mammal in the world. There are eight different varieties of the animal in Africa and Asia. Today, Google is focusing on the Giant pangolin, which is unique to Africa.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Pangolins Get Their Name From Their Preferred Defensive Position

Pangolin | World's WeirdestWith its giant digging claws, the pangolin is nature's backhoe. And a long, sticky tongue — capable of slurping up thousands of ants or termites every day — makes it the scourge of the bug world. ➡ Subscribe: bit.ly/NatGeoWILDSubscribe #NatGeoWILD #WorldsWeirdest #Pangolin About World's Weirdest: A buffalo with three eyes, an exterminator who eats his…2012-12-06T21:45:18.000Z

According to a World Wildlife Fund blog about pangolins says that their name originated as “penggulung.” A Malay word for a roller. Malay is the language of Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia. That’s the position that the scaly mammal takes when predators are nearby. They roll into a ball with its sharp scales pointed outwards. The defense mechanism has made pangolins easier for poachers to scoop up.

They mainly feed on ants and are known in some circles as “scaly anteaters.” The pangolin’s tongue is long and sticky, the have no teeth.

There are eight different species living today. Experts believe there have been more types over the course of the pangolin’s 80 million years of evolution.

The scales make have made the pangolin difficult for even lions to eat.

2. The Pangolin Is Critically Endangered But It’s Really Easy to Symbolically Adopt One

Meet the pangolin who’s teaching humans about his own kindThey’ve been called the world’s most trafficked animal you’ve never heard of. Pangolins are notoriously difficult to rehabilitate and release, but one woman in Namibia is getting it right, thanks to lessons learned from one of these scaly anteaters. Meet Katiti! Rare and Endangered Species Trust, Namibia: restafrica.org/ Subscribe to Earth Touch now for more…2015-10-15T11:07:49.000Z

The World Wildlife Fund says on their website that pangolins are critically endangered due to the demand for their meat and unique scales. Just over two pounds of pangolin scales go for $3,000 on the black market.

There have been numerous efforts to help save the pangolin. In 2014, a campaign named Roll With Pangolins was launched and endorsed by Prince William. In 2012, wildlife expert Sir David Attenborough chose the pangolin as one of the animals he would save from extinction.

The trade is largely illegal following a treaty that was signed by 180 countries to stop the hunting and trafficking of the mammal. A treaty from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service following the ratification of the treaty says, “Between 2013 and 2016, approximately 18,500kg of pangolin scales were seized from illegal shipments originating from African countries, representing between 5,100 – 39,000 individual pangolins depending on the actual species harvested (the largest pangolins have heavier scales, but more of the smaller pangolins are hunted).”

In conjunction with the Google Doodle, the World Wildlife Fund has made it extraordinarily easy to adopt a pangolin. You can adopt here. The basic cost is $25, though there are offers for $55 and $100.

3. In China, a Scandal Involving a ‘Pangolin Dinner Party’ Is Being Unraveled’

As the mammal’s endangered status is highlighted by Google, news broke from China involving a “Pangolin Dinner Party.” The BBC reports that the “party” took place in 2015 in the province of Guangxi in the south country. That same report says that those found guilty of eating pangolins can face 10 years in prison.

The pictures apparently first surfaced on Chinese social media website Weibo. A user, named Ah_cal, according to the BBC, wrote, “Cooked pangolin was served to us to eat. It was my first time eating it, the taste was very good, and I have already deeply fallen in love with this taste of wildlife!”
The party was linked to the Guangxi Investment Promotion Bureau. The Weibo user has been identified as a businessman from Hong Kong.

In ancient Chinese medicine, the scales of the pangolin is used to aid lactation, the draining of pus as well as treating palsy symptoms.

4. While in Thailand, a Record Haul of Pangolins Was Intercepted by the Coast Guard

What Is a Pangolin?

A Vietnamese Pangolin pictured in October 2016. (Getty)

On February 2, Reuters reported that the Thai Coast Guard intercepted a haul of 3 tons of pangolin scales. The agency said that authorities believed the scales originated in the Congo, were shipped into Turkey and then on to Thailand.

Police Major General Worapong Thongpaiboon told the media, “This is the biggest lot (of pangolin scales) that we have seized.” The scales were presented to members of the press during a briefing.

5. The Google Doodle Tells the Story of a Pangolin That’s in Love

Pangolin Google Doodle


The February 11 Google Doodle takes a unique approach, it shows a love story involving two pangolins. This is, of course, the month of Valentine’s Day. The parable reads in part:

Don’t let its hard outer scales fool you: inside, our friend Pangolin is a big softie, pining over a long-distance romance.

Now, the letter this pangolin’s been waiting for has arrived! Pangolin’s sweetheart wants to meet for real, and it’s ready to roll across the globe to make it happen.

The blog on the doodle makes it clear that this is only part one, so stay tuned for more pangolin updates.

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