Waking pangolin by Marc Eschenlohr
Is it a pine cone? Is it an artichoke? No - it's a pangolin! And February 15th is World Pangolin Day.
But - what is a pangolin?
Pangolins are seriously odd creatures. Though they are scaly, they are not reptiles - they are mammals. The scales are useful as when the pangolin is threatened it rolls into a ball with the scales acting as impenetrable armour. Anyone who tries to prise the pangolin open is likely to get cut on the scales' sharp edges!
Pangolin defending itself from lions by Sandip kumar
It's good that the scales are sharp as the pangolin can't defend itself with its teeth - because it doesn't have any! So how does it eat? Fortunately, the pangolin's main diet is ants and termites, so the teeth aren't necessary. What is needed though is the pangolin's extremely long tongue - measuring up to 40cm! - which is covered in a sticky substance so that the insects get stuck. A pangolin can consume up to 70 million insects per year! The tongue is so long that it starts in the abdomen, and it is also used to catch insects from between its scales.
Pangolin by Orin Zebest
This curious creature is found in many countries in Asia and Africa - including Namibia. However, their numbers are threatened due to habitat loss, being hunted for their meat, and being trafficked to China, where their scales are believed to have medicinal qualities.
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