Awesomely Weird Animals: The Pangolin

The Pangolin, also known as the Scaly Anteater, is protected by its armor-like scales, as well as by a repugnant odor that it discharges when predators are near. So, so far it’s called an anteater, seems a bit like an armadillo, and smells like a skunk? The head is small, and the muzzle is pointed and covered with small scales which continue forward of the eyes.

When the animal is in extreme danger, it rolls into a ball with its head tucked underneath its tail: hence its name (Peng-goling is a Malay word, meaning ‘roller’). Like an armadillo! It can then move its broad, scaled tail back and forth, to injure its attacker and prevent the predator from prising it out of its tightly rolled shape. Ok, that’s awesome!

The pangolin’s scales consist of hair-like filaments. The scales of the newborn harden on the second day, after which it can roll into a ball in order to protect itself. When it is very young, the mother will roll into a ball around it: as it grows too large to be completely enclosed, its head and shoulders are enveloped, and its tail is firmly clasped across the female’s body. Meanwhile, newborn pangolins look like tiny marsupials…

Unfortunately, all these precious babies were seized from poachers and were no longer living.

Gestation is 120–150 days. African pangolin females usually give birth to a single offspring at a time, but the Asiatic species can give birth from one to three.  Weaning takes place at around three months of age, and pangolins become sexually mature at two years.


Hitching a ride on mom.

The pangolin is a nocturnal, solitary forager, with a diet consisting of ants: it feeds in a similar way to the aardvark, using its claws to dig into anthills, and its long, sticky tongue to extract the ants. Pangolins have glands in their chests to lubricate the tongue with sticky, ant-catching saliva. Its tongue is extremely long (40 cm), and when not feeding the pangolin packs its tongue away into a pouch in its throat. A tongue pouch??? This animals is freaking awesome!

Some species, such as the Tree Pangolin, use their strong tails to hang from tree branches and strip away bark from the trunk, exposing insect nests inside.

The pangolin will either shelter in the abandoned burrow of a spring hare, aardvark or other animal; or it may bury itself in a heap of debris. It is a slow mover, walking on its hindlegs with the forefeet and tail held clear of the ground, and stopping to balance on its tail in an almost vertical position, in order to sniff the wind to locate possible danger. Um, cute.



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