P is for Pangolin
Never heard of a pangolin? The shy and secretive Sunda Pangolin may seem like a fictional character in a storybook fairy tale but they’re actually really cool creatures. Believe it or not they are a mammal. Covered in reptilian scales, with the snout of an anteater, the digging claws of a wombat, the climbing prowess of a possum and a long sticky tongue that would rival any amphibian in the animal kingdom, the pangolin is one of the coolest creatures you’ve never heard of.
- Sunda Pangolin is one of four Asian species of pangolin and there are also 4 species of pangolin found in Africa
- They like to live in trees or underground burrows and live a solitary, mostly nocturnal life
- Fully stretched a pangolin’s tongue reaches 40cm. They don’t have teeth and can’t chew so their long, sticky tongue does all the work
- Pangolins are known as the pest control of the forest. A single adult pangolin can eat up to 70 million insects per year
- Pangolin’s mark their territory with poo & a stinky secretion from a special gland under their tail
- Baby pangolin’s hitch a ride on the base of their mum’s tail and will do this for around three months
- Pangolins are born with all of their scales which can number up to 1000!
Covered with armour of tough, overlapping scales made of keratin (just like human nails and hair), when frightened the pangolin will curl up into a tight ball to protect its bare belly. While this defensive method can be effective against predators like tigers it is not so effective against humans.
A dying breed
More than a million pangolins are estimated to have been taken from the wild since 2000. Pangolins are believed to be the most trafficked mammal in the world. Sadly, Sunda Pangolins are predicted to decline by a further 80% within the next two decades unless urgent action is taken.
The primary threat to the Sunda Pangolin is hunting and poaching. In parts of Asia, the flesh of pangolins is considered a delicacy and powdered pangolin scales are thought to be an aphrodisiac and to hold high medicinal qualities despite being made of keratin, the same substance found in human nails and hair. The Sunda Pangolin is also threatened by the widespread habitat loss that has occurred throughout its range.
Pangolin protection with Save Vietnam's Wildlife
Taronga works with SVW to provide nutrition advice to support enhance the wellbeing of rehabilitated pangolins. We are also supporting SVW’s work to develop a disease risk strategy for Sunda Pangolin releases.
Come and meet us
While Taronga does not exhibit the Sunda Pangolin we have made a conservation commitment to this magnificent mammal and are determined to combat the illegal wildlife trade. To understand the illegal trade in Pangolin,
Taronga has partnered with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. Together with this wildlife monitoring network, we have developed the Wildlife Witness App: a free-to-download smartphone app that empowers locals and tourists to photograph and geo-locate illegal wildlife trade activities as they witness them. The data gathered by TRAFFIC can then be used to inform and prioritise enforcement actions.