There are four species of pangolin, also known as scaly anteaters, living in Africa. Two of them are tree-living animals with long prehensile tails, which they use when climbing. The other two species, which include the endangered ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), live in burrows and forage on the ground.

Pangolins feed solely on ants and termites. They have several adaptations, such as having no teeth, which help them in this regard. Like other ant-eating mammals, they have sticky tongues up to 25cm long for collecting their prey, and strong claws to tear open termite nests. Unlike any other mammals, however, pangolins have scales rather than hairs, giving them a reptilian appearance. When a pangolin is threatened, it rolls up into a tight ball, protecting its soft underparts and presenting a formidable, scaly barrier to predators. The ground pangolin has declined in numbers because, like its Asian cousins, it is in demand for its scales, which are used in local medicines.


ARKive photos and videos of the ground pangolin

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