How did the pangolin get its scales?

The pangolin, the most trafficked mammal on Earth, is prized for its meat and its unique scales, which are said to have medicinal properties. Peter Knights, CEO of the WildAid charity, said that while China’s ban was welcome, a global effort was required to end the drastic decline in the world’s pangolin populations.

A number of extinct pangolin species are also known. Pangolins have large, protective keratin scales, similar in material to fingernails and toenails, covering their skin; they are the only known mammals with this feature. They live in hollow trees or burrows, depending on the species.

Why are pangolins poached?

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A common query we ran across in our research was “Are pangolins dangerous?”.

Some authors claimed their scales are dangerous weapons. If threatened, the pangolin will perform a cutting motion with its scales if anything is inserted between them—that’s a nasty shock for a strange paw or snout! Do pangolins bite? They are so tough that even lions can’t bite through them! To protect themselves, pangolins can roll.

What is a pangolin and why are they trafficked?

The animals are trafficked mainly for their scales, which are believed to treat a variety of health conditions in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and as a luxury food in Vietnam and China. In Africa, pangolins are sold as a form of bushmeat, for ritual or spiritual purposes, and use in traditional African medicine.