In this arti­cle, you will get acquaint­ed with an amaz­ing ani­mal — the pan­golin. You will learn more about what this crea­ture is, where it lives and why it is endan­gered.


What kind of animal is a pangolin?

Wan­der­ing through the jun­gle, you can hear the fun­ny dia­logue of ani­mals dis­cussing a stranger among them:

a lion: What is this crea­ture? It eats ants. Is it an anteater?

Ant-eater: Not! It’s not one of us. He has armor. Is that an armadil­lo?

Bat­tle­ship: Not! I’ve nev­er seen this before. It looks like an arti­choke.

A mon­key: walk­ing veg­etable? This is some non­sense! I’m just going to ask him. Hey bud­dy! What are you?

a lion: Did you see it? It just rolled into a ball. Maybe it’s a live soc­cer ball!

It sounds a bit fun­ny, but there is some truth in every joke. Until recent­ly, the crea­ture was not stud­ied in detail, but today we already know that it is a pan­golin! The pan­golin is some­times referred to as the “scaly anteater”. Some peo­ple also refer to it as a leg bump, or an arti­choke with a tail. No mat­ter how you describe it, the pan­golin is a strange crea­ture!


Although some peo­ple think it is a rep­tile, the pan­golin is actu­al­ly a mam­mal. In fact, it is the only mam­mal cov­ered in scales. Scales are made from ker­atin, which is the same pro­tein that makes up human hair and nails.


The pan­golin’s scales form a pro­tec­tive bar­ri­er that helps it pro­tect itself from preda­tors in the wild. When threat­ened, the ani­mal curls up into a tight ball to pro­tect itself. This action gives the pan­golin its name, which comes from the Malay word (peng­gu­lung) mean­ing “to curl up”. They may also use the sharp scales on their tails to deter an attack­er.

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coiled pangolin

Pan­golins vary in size from as small as a cat to as large as a large armadil­lo. They are gen­er­al­ly soli­tary noc­tur­nal ani­mals that live in bur­rows and use their long, sticky tongues to eat ants and ter­mites.

Where do pangolins live?

There are eight species of pan­golin, four each in Africa (black-bel­lied, white-bel­lied, giant earth and Tem­mink ter­res­tri­al) and in Asia (Indi­an, Fil­ipino, Sun­di­an and Chi­nese). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, pan­golins are becom­ing an increas­ing­ly endan­gered species. They are con­sid­ered the most ille­gal trade item in the world and are espe­cial­ly in demand in Asian coun­tries such as Chi­na and Viet­nam. You can read about the rarest ani­mals in the world in a sep­a­rate selec­tion.

pangolin scales

Pan­golin meat is con­sid­ered a del­i­ca­cy, and the scales are used in a wide vari­ety of folk med­i­cines. Although cur­rent­ly pro­tect­ed by inter­na­tion­al law, all eight species of pan­golin are either vul­ner­a­ble or endan­gered. You can also watch a short video about pan­golins from Nation­al Geo­graph­ic:

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