Learn About Pangolins


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There are eight species of pangolins distributed between Asia and Africa. They are a mammal most closely related to carnivores (think dogs, bears, cats). They have protective scales made from keratin, the same material that makes your hair and fingernails. They cover the pangolin from the head to the tip of the tail, but are not found on the belly. Their diet consist almost entirely of ants and termites.


  • Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) – Critically Endangered IUCN
  • Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) – Critically Endangered IUCN
  • Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) – Endangered IUCN
  • Palawan Pangolin (Manis culionensis) – Endangered IUCN


  • White-bellied Tree Pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) – Threatened/Vulnerable IUCN
  • Black-bellied Tree Pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) – Threatened/Vulnerable IUCN
  • Giant Ground Pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) – Threatened/Vulnerable IUCN
  • Temminck’s Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) – Threatened/Vulnerable IUCN

What’s in a name?

Pangolin comes from the Malayan word of “penggulung”, which means “roller”. When pangolins feel threatened, they frequently roll into a protective ball, protecting the scaleless parts of the body from attack. Check out this video to see this protective mechanism in action!


Pangolins general give birth to a single offspring after a gestation between 140-300 days (depending on the species), but occasional twins have been reported. The young are thought to be weaned for most species about three months of age.


Traditional Chinese medicine falsely believes that dried pangolin scales will stimulate lactation in women, correct menstruation problems, reduce swelling, increase blood circulation, and even cure cancer. All of these are incorrect, and the scales hold no true medical value. Although some Chinese operations have said their pangolin products come from “pangolin farms” these do not currently exist, and all pangolins products being offered are illegally acquired from unsustainably harvested wild populations.

In Africa, traditionally pangolins have been offered in the bushmeat trade. In some African cultures pangolin meat is consumed to encourage a long in healthy life. Practicers of “Juju” or “Voodoo” often use pangolins believing they have magical properties.