Illegal trade in South Asia, however, has made these scaly mammals the most trafficked animal on earth, with some estimates claiming that sales now account for up to 20 per cent of the entire wildlife black market.
The pangolins precious scales, which protect it from predators, are made from keratin. This is the same material as rhino horn and fingernails and in Maasai culture these scales have traditionally been used to make love potions. The scales are also used in traditional Chinese medicine and are dried and roasted as a method of relieving palsy. As a result, pangolin scales can sell on the black market for over US$ 3,000 a kilogram, and have even been used to make coats.
Pangolins are the only mammals in the world that are covered in scales (©Paolo Parazzi).
The pangolin feeds predominantly on ants and termites, which is sucks up using a specially adapted tongue. When fully extended, a pangolin’s tongue can be over 40cm long!
Pangolins are sexually dimorphic, meaning the genders differ vastly in weight. Most male pangolins are up to 50 per cent heavier than females. The female give birth to a single pup, which travels on its mother’s back or tail and slips underneath her tummy when alarmed.
The pangolin rolls into a tight ball when threatened (©Paolo Parazzi).
The pangolin is a mind boggling, marvellous mammal and we feel very lucky to see this creature so often!
If you would like to come on safari with The Safari Collection and visit Sala’s Camp in the Masai Mara please email [email protected].