Maybe you think you have never heard of a pangolin, but if you have ever heard of a spiny anteater, then you have heard of a pangolin because it's the same thing. I don't know why some of these animals have a bunch of different names, but they do. And it's pretty darned confusing, if you ask me!
Anyway, pangolins don't even have spines. What they have is scales all over them, so they look like lizards or some kind of reptile, but they are really mammals, just like dogs and people are. There are 8 species of pangolin, and 4 of them live in Africa, and 4 live in Asia. The African species are the ground pangolin, tree pangolin, giant pangolin, and long-tailed pangolin. The Asian species are the Indian pangolin, Chinese pangolin, Malayan pangolin, and Philippine pangolin.
The smallest pangolin is the long-tailed pangolin, which has a body that is 12--14 inches long, and the biggest pangolin is the giant pangolin, and it is 49--55 inches long. I am going to mostly talk about the giant pangolin because it's one of the pangolins that live in Africa, which is where basenjis come from. But a lot of things are the same with different species of pangolins, except that some live in trees and some live under the ground in burrows.
The name "pangolin" comes from a Malaysian word, and it means "rolling up in a ball." This is a very good name for this animal because the way it keeps from getting eaten by predators is to make itself into a ball with the scaly parts on the outside to protect it. The main predators of pangolins are lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas, and humans. Besides using their scales to protect themselves, pangolins can also lash out with their tails or spray yucky-smelling stuff like skunks do.
The main food that pangolins like to eat is ants and termites, but sometimes they will also eat other small insects. Pangolins sleep all day and then they come out at night and they go around looking for termite nests that they can break open. Pangolins can't see very well, but their hearing is very good, and so is their sense of smell. Which is how they find all the ants and termites. Also they can walk on their hind legs, and that way they can use their front feet to dig into nests.
Pangolins don't have any teeth, but they don't need any because they have these really long, sticky tongues. In fact, a pangolin tongue can be more than 14 inches long! So when they dig into a termite or ant nest with their sharp claws, they just put their tongues in there, and the insects stick to their tongues. The ants and termites get swallowed whole, and to help get them digested, pangolins also swallow a few little stones.
Baby pangolins have very soft scales when they are born, but these scales are already starting to get hard by the second day. When the babies are about a month old, they go out with them moms to learn how to find termites and ants. The mama pangolins can protect the babies by rolling their bodies around the babies' bodies.
The Malayan pangolin and the Chinese pangolin are ENDANGERED, and the Indian, tree, Philippine and giant pangolin species are THREATENED. In China and some other places in Asia, pangolin scales are used in herbal medicine to make blood flow better, to reduce swelling, to help mothers nurse their babies, and for some other stuff. Also pangolin meat is something that a lot of Chinese people like to eat.
|Pangolin fetus soup|
Anyway, that's what I know about pangolins. I wish I had happier news about them, but I don't. I just hope they don't go extinct, because that would be very sad.