Pangolins: On the verge of extinction

At present, Pangolins are the most illegally trafficked animals, with growing hunting and illegal trade, the population of Pangolins are declining rapidly, with that in mind all of the 8 species of the Pangolins are listed under Appendix I of CITES, with all of 182 members unanimously voting on ban of trade of Pangolins. With the unchecked illegal hunting, Pangolins are on the verge of extinction! 

Pangolins are mammals of the order Pholidota, and family Manidae which has a single genus, The word Pangolin is derived from Malayan phrase ‘Pen Gulling’ which translates into ‘rolling ball’ or something that rolls up, while the term Pholidota came from a Greek word meaning ‘Scaled animals’ the single genus is represented by 8 Species. Pangolins are known as Scaly Ant eaters! They are called “Salak” in Nepali. Pangolins are the only animals found in Nepal which can use their tails to hang themselves. A recent research suggests that Pangolins are found in at least 43 districts of Nepal.
Of the 8 Species of Pangolin in the world, 4 species are found in Asia of which 2 species are found in Nepal. The Chinese Pangolin Manis pentadactyla are distributed from the lower foothills to the middle mountains of Nepal while the Indian Pangolin  Manis crassicaudata have been reported from western Terai region of Nepal. The peculiar character of Pangolin is that its skin is covered by large Keratin Scales. They look like some primitive animal from Jurassic era.

Asian Species:

  • Chinese

  • Palawan

  • Indian

  • Malayan (or Sunda)


African Species:

  • Tree pangolin

  • Giant ground pangolin

  • Cape pangolin

  • Long-tailed pangolin

The body looks similar to Pine cone. It is known to curl up into a ball like structure when it feels threatened while the scales act like armor. The Pangolin has an extremely elongated tongue which extend into the abdominal cavity. The largest Pangolins can extend their tongues upto 40 cm. Pangolins do not have teeth and are not able to chew, there’s a specialized glands in the chest of Pangolins which are specialized to produce a sticky ant catching saliva which helps to stick the ants in its long tongue. The diets of Pangolin consist of Ants and Termites. The Pangolins control the Ants and Termites and without them the population Ants could skyrocket. The life span of Pangolins is unknown but they are known to live over 20 years in captivity.
Manis pentadactyla (Photo source: Alain Compost via



Status of Pangolins in Nepal:

The Indian Pangolin, thick-tailed pangolin, or scaly anteater (Manis crassicaudata) Endangered (IUCN 3.1)
The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) Critically Endangered (IUCN 3.1)

The reason behind the Declining population:

Research data suggests that more than 100,000 Pangolins are illegally traded every year. The implication of medical importance of Pangolin is the reason for the declining population as the trade for Pangolin scales grows larger every day. It’s known that Pangolin and Pangolin scales are on high alert in the national and international trade market. They are mostly known to be imported to China, where most people believe that the scales have medicinal values. It is believed that pangolin is very important in healing rheumatic fever, asthma, joint problem etc. It is also believed that the Pangolins Uterus has high traditional value which is associated with avoiding abortion problems, stimulating lactation in females is one of the rumored misconceptions. The scales are also made into lockets which are believed to protect the children.
The only way to stop these illegal trade is; to aware the public about the status and importance of the Pangolins and the false assumptions that they are of medicinal uses! Even if there are, the so called healers or medicine makers and Scientist can work together to find the element or the thing whatever it is, the proteins or the chemicals responsible for treatments, if they can find a way to synthesize it that would of great help, but they never think of it like that, it’s just superstition that the Pangolin scales are of medicinal uses, well even if it is true, it doesn’t mean we have the rights to over exploit it! The same chemicals, if true, found inside the Pangolins can be synthesized outside to treat those diseases. Killing them endlessly is not an option. They are one of the most important animals in the Ecosystem. But in recent years, the conservational effort in case of Pangolins are growing day by day. Hope this will continue in future as well and hope that there will come a day when that amazing species will be threat-less in the wild and both humans and Pangolins can live together in peace, which again will be helped by the pangolins, they are helping us control the Ants and the Termites and what are we giving them in return? Death? Is that fair?

P.S. World Pangolin Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in February


#SaveThePangolins Help spread the words!


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Mr Zoologist

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