February 15, 2014 was World Pangolin Day! This endangered species (photo fromwww.savepangolins.org) is a small (species range from 3 1/2 to 70 lbs), scaly mammal found in southeast Asia and parts of Africa. Also known as scaly anteaters, pangolins use their thick, strong claws and incredible sense of smell to find their primary food of ants and termites. They are nocturnal and secretive. The eight species of pangolins live in many different habitats including forests, thick brush, grasslands, and even cultivated areas. All eight species of pangolin are protected under national and international law, and two of the species are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It’s unclear how long pangolins live in the wild, but they’ve been known to live up to 20 years in captivity. The major threats to pangolins are habitat loss and illegal hunting for their meat and scales (used in Asian medicine).
So pangolins live on the other side of the world and we’ve never even seen one – why should greenmomsters give a flying flit about these animals? Well, other than the fact that they’re incredibly cute, particularly when the young ride around on their mother’s backs near the base of their tails (photo fromwww.savepangolins.org), these species play a vital role in the balance of nature in their ecosystems. As stated inWildlife Heroes (Scardina and Flocken, 2011), “Pangolins play a critical role in natural insect control, especially ants and termites, saving humans millions of dollars to pest damage and reducing the need for harmful chemical pesticides. Additionally, pangolin burrows provide shelter for many species, such as rodents and reptiles.”
Want to help with pangolin conservation? Learn more by joining the Pangolin SSC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/IUCN-SSC-Pangolin-Specialist-Group/279294488845768, or make a donation toward conservation at http://www.pangolinsg.org/. For more information on pangolins, check out www.savepangolins.org.
Be sure to check out this video from ARKive.org: http://www.arkive.org/ground-pangolin/smutsia-temminckii/video-00.html
Pangolin Conservation Support Initiative. 2012. Save Pangolins website. Accessed 10/7/12.www.savepangolins.org.
Pangolin Species Survival Commission. 2012. Pangolin SSC website. Accessed 10/7/12. http://www.pangolinsg.org/
Scardina, J. and J. Flocken. 2011. Wildlife Heroes. Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia PA. 264 pp.