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Episode 20: Trafficked, The Pangolin Story

Pangolins are the number 1 animal trafficked throughout the world. Prized for their so called “medicinal” value, these small creatures are sold for a premium on the black market. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that any part of a pangolin (nor their scales, which are nothing but keratin) provide any therapeutic value. Listen and learn about another amazing and unique mammal.

Pangolin Overview

There are 8 recognized species of pangolins. With all species of pangolin threatened with extinction.

The Asian species:

The African species:

Population estimates for pangolins are difficult to identify since these are small animals that are nocturnal and often secretive. However, incredibly high rates of poaching and the trafficking of these animals, not to mention the absolute scarcity of these animals in the wild have led to their classifications.

Pangolin History

Pangolins are the only species alive from the family Manidae, where many of their earlier ancestors are extinct. This family has been described as ‘scaly anteaters.’ Interestingly, the closest relatives to pangolins are not other ant/termite eating mammals, but rather carnivores. However, pangolins do look a lot like other ant-eating mammals due to convergent evolution. Which again, convergent evolution is when animals develop similar physical traits even though they are not closely related. So for example, pangolins have long snouts, tongues, and claws, all similar traits to its distant relative the Giant Anteater from South America.

Pangolin Facts

  • Pangolins can live up to 20 years in captivity and assumed to be able to live as long in the wild.
  • The Black-bellied pangolin is the smallest at 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) and 12 in (30 cm) long.
  • The Giant ground pangolin is the largest at 73 lb (33 kg) and as long as 40 in (100 cm)
  • Pangolins do not have teeth, but rather eat small stones to help digest their meals.
  • Pangolins are insectivores. Diets include ants, termites, larvae, flies, worms, and other insects.
  • A single pangolin is estimated to eat over 70 million insects annually.
  • The tongue of a pangolin can extend up to 16 in (40 cm). They are able to extend the tongues to reach their prey and due to it being attached to the pelvis and last ribs, rather than to the mouth.
  • These animals have poor vision but excellent hearing.
  • Babies (Pangies….the name Angie gives them) ride on their mothers tails when their mother is moving around.

Pangolin Conservation

The pangolin is the most trafficked animal in the world. Similar to rhino horn, certain Asian cultures support a belief the keratin from a pangolin’s scales provides medicinal value such as reducing inflammation, promote circulation, stimulate lactation, and even cure cancer. These are FALSE. There has not been one single study produced to support any of the claims. Again, similar to rhino horn, the keratin scales of a pangolin are made up of the same substance as human hair and finger nails, chicken feathers, cow hair, and other materials.

Further, pangolin is a prized delicacy in some countries. While outlawed in some nations, the practice of eating these endangered animals continues.

Conservation Tips

Share this knowledge. Together, and only together, across countries and continents, we as a people need to stand up and voice our support for ending the pangolin trade. We need to band together if any of us will make a major difference. The animals thank you!

Organizations to Support

Brookfield Zoo Chicago

Video Links

The Tragic Tale of the Pangolin

Pangolin sniffing

Pangolin vs Lions


March 27, 2018

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