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Know Your Pangolins!
Pangolins are truly amazing creatures. They are the only scaly mammals, they don't have teeth but have long, sticky tongues to catch ants and termites, they are arboreal and burrow-diggers and they roll up into a tight ball when they feel threatened. The world 'pangolin' comes from the Malay 'penggulin' which means 'something that rolls up'.
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Pangolins play various ecological roles in the ecosystems they inhabit. By eating millions of ants and termites a year, they control pests which could otherwise cause severe damages to crops and infrastructure. They help with soil aeration as they turn over dirt in the process of digging for food or to create burrows. Their burrows are also used by several other species - sometime at the same time as the pangolins themselves!
While pangolins have very poor eyesight they can rely on their strong sense of smell to find food. Most pangolin species are nocturnal and they can be pretty shy creatures. They are known to be elusive in nature and therefore really hard to spot in the wild. However, there are some lucky people who have seen them!
Pangolins are mostly solitary animals except when they are with a mate or when a female is looking after her young.
Unfortunately, all eight pangolin species are facing serious threats. While some dangers are specific to the species' habitat, all species are extensively poached to meet the demand in East Asia for their products. Pangolin scales, although historically used for traditional medicine in Asia and Africa, are currently used unsustainably in Traditional Chinese Medicine. While pangolin numbers in the wild are unknown, seizures made across Africa and Asia, and even in transit points in Europe, suggest that an estimated 900,000 pangolins were poached and trafficked from 2000 to 2019.
Pangolin meat, consumed and sold in high numbers in markets in Africa as bushmeat, is also considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam.
Pangolin wine, which refers to whole pangolins and/or body parts soaked in wine to be imbibed as a tonic and as rice wine mixed with pangolin body fluids, is also consumed in East Asia.
The use of pangolin scales for ornamental purposes (carved into rings or with designs on the scales themselves) has also been reported but more research is needed to understand this use.
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