Pangolin For Sale

Pangolins are mammals about the size of a cat. Though they are often grouped together, there are 8 types in Asia and Africa. There are eight different pangolins under various stages of threat in Asia and Africa: the Chinese pangolin and Sunda pangolin, which are both critically endangered, the Indian pangolin and the Philippine pangolin, which are both endangered, and the Cape pangolin, White-bellied pangolin, Giant Ground pangolin, and the Black-bellied pangolin, which are all vulnerable.

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Pangolins are characterized by their small size and large, protective scales that cover their skin. They are the only mammal with this feature. These scales are made of tough keratin, which start out soft when they are young and harden as they grow. These scales are not the same as reptile scales in either material or structure. Many people have compared their appearance to a pinecone and they tend to curl up in a ball when threatened, its overlapping scales acting as armor. The face does not have this scale armor and so it tucks it under its tail to protect it. Unlike the keratin on humans, their scales are sharp, which provides some extra defense when under attack. As an extra defense, pangolins can emit a foul-smelling chemical, similar to the spray of a skunk. They have short legs and sharp claws, which are helpful when foraging for food and climbing. Similar to anteaters, their tongue is long and able to pick up many insects at once. These tongues can be as long as 16 inches and have a diameter of only .2 inches. Pangolins are also good swimmers and have sometimes walked on two feet for a few steps, though they usually walk on all fours. As senses go, they have poor eyesight and rely mostly on their sense of hearing and smell. They are around the size of a domestic cat, however male pangolins are larger than females, sometimes weighing 40% more.

Pangolins live in India, China, South-east Asia, and parts of Africa, often living in tropical forests, dry woodlands, and savannahs. All pangolins burrow into an area, rather than resting in the open, however some species live in the hollows of trees while others live in burrows.

Diet

Similar to anteaters, pangolins mostly eat ants and termites with the help of their long, sticky tongue. While this is their main diet, they occasionally eat other insects, especially larvae. They tend to have preferred insects that they eat and are particular with their food, even when other insects are available for them to eat. In one day, a pangolin can eat up to 7 ounces of insects. Because they rely mostly on their sense of smell and hearing, they find their prey through smell and sound. They also have no teeth. Because of this, they have additional physical traits that help them eat and digest their food. Their powerful front claws dig into trees, vegetation, and dirt to find their food and their long tongues search for the insects and gather them. Some species also use their tails to hang from branches and strip away back to expose the insects inside. Their tongue is essential to their eating ability, as it has sticky saliva that helps to gather the insects into their mouths. Without teeth, they use their stomach (a specific part called the gizzard) to grind up their prey with its keratin spines and rocks that were ingested with the insects.

Behavior

Pangolins are nocturnal and use their sense of smell to find insects at night. During the day, they spend most of their time sleeping, either in burrows or in trees. They tend to be solitary animals, only seeing each other to mate (offspring are often 1-3 per litter). Even with their young, pangolins only raise them for about two years before leaving them by themselves. Though much of their mating behavior is unknown, they generally mate once per year, generally in the summer or fall. Unlike other mammals, however, Pangolin males do not search for females during this time. Instead, they mark their location with urine or feces and the female will search for them. If there is more than one male per female, the males will fight, using their tails as clubs. During a fight or if threatened, pangolins will hiss, puff up, and use their tails, however, they will curl up in a ball until the attacker leaves if the opponent is too large.

Endangered

Pangolins are an endangered and protected species, with an international ban on their trade. Even with the regulations in place, they are the most trafficked mammal in the world, with an estimated 100,000 being trafficked to China and Vietnam every year (over 1 million over the last 10 years). This threat to the pangolins is due to them being hunted for the meat and scales and from heavy deforestation. In china, Vietnam, and other parts of Southeast Asia, their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are believed to cure cancer, relieve palsy, and even stimulate breast milk in traditional medicine. This demand is driving poachers to hunt them by laying traps and even feeding them gravel to increase their value. There are concerns that they are also being hunted for intercontinental trade to Asia. Along with illegal hunting, their habitats are shrinking due to timber harvesting, pesticides, and electric fences.

Currently, pangolins are listed as an item that cannot be traded internationally and have gained further attention by conservation groups. There have also been attempts at reproducing pangolins in captivity, however, this effort has fallen short, as they rely heavily on wide-ranging habitats and very particular diets. Because of their genetic history, they are very fragile and are unable to survive in harsh or unfamiliar environments for long, falling ill quickly and being susceptible to parasite infections. Though past attempts at reviving the pangolin population have met little success, further research looks promising in creating better artificial habitats and understanding their diet.

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