Do not be fooled by its scales, a Pangolin is not a dangerous reptile. It is a harmless mammal that is widely dispersed throughout Asia and Africa, but its population is decreasing due to wildlife crime. Pangolins standout among the class Mammalia because of its protective scales and extraordinary shape.
Read further to know more about the most common kind of Pangolin in Africa, the Ground Pangolin.
What is a Pangolin?
Often mistaken as a reptile, this is the mammal to possess large, keratin scales covering its body. It is a mammal that belongs to the order Pholidota, meaning “scaled animals.” Its name was derived from the Malay word “pengguling,” meaning “one who rolls up.” Its extant family, the Manidae, consists of three genera: Manis, Smutsia, and Phataginues. Pangolins are widely distributed among Asia and Africa.
The type of pangolin that is commonly found in Africa is the Ground Pangolin. Also known as Temminck’s Pangolin, Cape Pangolin, and Manis temminckii, this animal can be found in central, southern, and eastern regions of Africa. Due to the constant decline of its population, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species recorded this species as “vulnerable.”
Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Genus: Manis temminckii
Physical description of a Ground Pangolin
A Pangolin grows up to 70 cm long. A male Pangolin is usually larger than females. Its whole body is covered with movable, sharp scales, except the belly, face, chin, throat, and snout. The scales are dark olive-brown in color, which looks closely similar to a pine cone and an artichoke. Its underparts are covered in sparse fur. Its color gives it an advantage in the environment, making it easier for them to blend into several surroundings.
Its small, pointed head has little dark eyes that are secured by thick eyelids. It does not have many teeth, but its extremely long, sticky tongue that stretches up to 25 cm allows it to catch insects from a distance. A Ground Pangolin’s stomach is made to digest unchewed food items. It possesses long claws that are sharp enough to dig holes and tunnels to create its own home.
A Ground Pangolin walks using its hind legs and uses its forelegs and tail to balance itself. It has poor hearing and eyesight, but it possesses a strong sense of smell.
Ground Pangolin Habitats and Distribution
Ground Pangolins are dispersed throughout parts of Africa, in countries such as Chad, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. They find refuge in high-fall and low-fall habitats such as dense forests, scrublands, open woodland savannas, and grasslands.
How does a Ground Pangolin behave?
Armed with poor hearing and eyesight, a Ground Pangolin does not make a good hunter. However, when its predator is hunting this mammal, its scales make a great defense. When a predator in sight, the Ground Pangolin will roll into a ball, wrapping its entire body and tail around its curled body. Its scales will serve as a threat to any predator seeking to eat it. Researchers have also said that it’s hard to pry the pangolin out of its curled position.
Ground Pangolins spend the majority of their time on the ground, but they can occasionally be seen climbing trees.
Food sources and hunting practices
This mammal feeds on ants, larvae, and termites, hence its nickname “the scaly anteater.” A Ground Pangolin is a nocturnal animal that hunts with the help of its keen sense of smell. During the day, it sleeps in burrows. Using its long, sharp claws, it creates burrows wherein it can rest peacefully and hide from its predators.
Interesting facts you should know about Pangolins
Did you know that Pangolins all over the world are on the brink of extinction? This is because they are the most trafficked mammal in the world. Some Asian countries like Vietnam and China find delight in eating Pangolin meat and using their keratinized scales for traditional medicine. Although there are already established laws to protect Pangolins, there are illegal wildlife trades in Pangolins that are still present up to this day.
On a lighter note, in 2016, more than 280 governments agreed to bring an end to legal trades of Pangolins to protect the threatened species from extinction.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND: