What is a pangolin? 3 things you need to know

Pangolin: What you need to know

They may look like a scaly reptile but what exactly is a pangolin?

1. A pangolin is a mammal.

Despite the scale-like armor, they are really mammals, also known as the scaly anteater, that use the scales to protect themselves when under attack. When there’s a threat, they curl into a ball and use their tails as a manner of defense, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

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Their name is based on the Malay word “penggulung” meaning roller, Pangolinsg.org.

There are eight species of the pangolin.

They eat ants, termites and larvae using their sticky tongues since they have no teeth. And they hunt at night.

They grow from 45 inches to 4 1/2 feet long and weigh anywhere from 4 to 72 pounds, according to National Geographic. Their scales, which are made of keratin, make up about 20% of their weight, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

2. They are either critically endangered or vulnerable.

Of the eight species, four found in Asia -- the Chinese, Sunda, Indian and Philippine pangolins -- are all listed as critically endangered, according to National Geographic.

The other four species which are found in Africa -- the ground pangolin, giant pangolin, white-bellied and black-bellied species-- are vulnerable, National Geographic found.

3. Pangolin is a delicacy, but it is illegal to trade them.

The animal is one of the most trafficked mammals in Asia and Africa. The meat is a delicacy and their scales have medicinal and folk remedy usage, the World Wildlife Foundation said.

All pangolins, no matter the species, are protected under national and international laws.

Between 2011 and 2013, about 116,990 to 233,980 pangolins were killed. The numbers come from the seizure of the illegally traded animals. Experts believe that many more are slaughtered and that only 10% are accounted for.

A treaty was signed in 2016 by more than 180 governments to stop the legal trade of pangolins to protect them from extinction.

FILE PHOTO: A baby Sunda pangolin nicknamed 'Sandshrew' feeds on termites in the woods at Singapore Zoo on June 30, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: A baby Sunda pangolin nicknamed 'Sandshrew' feeds on termites in the woods at Singapore Zoo on June 30, 2017. (AFP Contributor/AFP via Getty Images)