Pangolins are insectivorous mammals confined to the Afro-tropical and Indo-Malayan regions. They are also known as ‘Scaly Anteaters’ because of their structure and food habits. These burrowing mammals predominantly feed on termites and ants. Pangolins are unique because their bodies are covered with tough, overlapping scales.
In the presence of danger, pangolins quickly roll themselves up into a tight ball. In fact, the name ‘pangolin’ is derived from Malayan phrase ‘pengguling’ meaning the ‘rolling ball’. Pangolins are solitary, nocturnal creatures and are known to be good climbers. Pangolin limbs are stout and well adapted for digging. Each paw has five toes, and their forefeet have three long, curved, claws used to demolish the nests of termites and ants and to dig nesting and sleeping burrows. Pangolins shuffle on all four limbs, balancing on the outer edges of their forefeet and tucking their fore claws underneath as they walk. It’s a very interesting sight to observe these creatures walking.
With small conical heads and jaws lacking teeth, pangolins have amazingly long, muscular and sticky tongues that are perfect for reaching and lapping up ants and termites in deep cavities. Pangolins have poor vision, so they locate termite and ant nests with their strong sense of smell. A pangolin’s tongue is attached near its pelvis and last pair of ribs, and when fully extended, is longer than the animal’s head and body. At rest, a pangolin’s tongue retracts into a sheath in its chest cavity.