Is it an oversized armadillo or a pinecone with legs? Neither! On this Wildlife Wednesday, we learn about the giant pangolin!
With the body of an oversized armadillo, a footprint much like that of a small elephant, and a secretive and nocturnal nature, giant pangolins are Mother Nature’s own sneaky ninjas. They even have built-in armor!
On this Wildlife Wednesday, we’re learning about giant pangolins.
These scaly insectivores can be found scouring the equatorial countries of Africa, including Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, and Uganda.
- Forget about the woodchuck, giant pangolins are the true masters of the dirt—their burrows have been measured to be up to 130 ft (40 m) long!
- Considering their size, though, they probably need a big home. Giant pangolins, as their name suggests, are the largest of their species, measuring about 55 in (140 cm) and weighing 60 lb (27 kg).
- In the past, scientists classified pangolins together with anteaters, sloths, and armadillos in the order Xenarthra … because pangolins sort of look like anteaters. Later researchers, though, set them apart.
- Early researchers didn’t have it completely wrong, though. Much like anteaters, these brawny burrowers have a thin, extensile tongue that allows them to make quick work of their prey—ants, termites, and other insects.
Why are they threatened?
Like other African pangolins, these particular insectivores are threatened by widespread hunting for their meat and for their supposed benefits in traditional medicines. Research found that, in 2004, giant pangolins formed more than 5,000 kg of the meat and medicines sold in five markets—a figure that’s only been increasing over the years. Intercontinental trade—especially to China, as many Asian pangolin species are becoming harder to come by—is also a major threat.
However, giant pangolins aren’t going it alone. They have government support in the form of protected national parks, such as Liberia’s Sapo National Park, Tai National Park in the Ivory Coast, and Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Congo. The IUCN itself has stepped in to form a species survival commission, which studies the armored animals and works to spearhead conservation efforts.