Pangolins threatened with extinction

Published July 30, 2014
 Species spotlight

The very distinctive pangolin, or scaly anteater, is at risk of being eaten out of existence. The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows that all eight species are now threatened with extinction.

The pangolin is the only mammal with scales, which act as an armour against its natural predators. Unfortunately the scales offer no defence against poachers. It is believed that over the past decade more than one million pangolins have been poached – more than elephants or rhinoceros – making it the most illegally traded mammal in the world. In Asia, and more specifically China and Vietnam, pangolin meat is considered a luxury food, while pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

“All eight pangolin species are now listed as threatened with extinction, largely because they are being illegally traded to China and Vietnam,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and Conservation Programmes Director at ZSL. “In the 21st Century we really should not be eating species to extinction – there is simply no excuse for allowing this illegal trade to continue.”

The IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group have launched a conservation action plan, “Scaling up Pangolin Conservation” that will focus on protecting pangolin strongholds in Asia and Africa, and help local communities to move away from poaching, strengthen legislation, and most importantly, understand and reduce consumer demand.

The Ground pangolin is the only species of pangolin that occurs in South Africa. Pangolins are predominantly solitary, almost exclusively nocturnal animals and mainly eat ants and termites, including the eggs and larvae. They have a inconspicuous nature and over a period of 20 years, only 73 sightings of Ground pangolin have been reported in the Kruger National Park. The number of Ground pangolins in South Africa is currently unknown.

Ground Pangolin distribution

Ground Pangolin Status

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The eight pangolin species are:

  • Ground Pangolin (Manis temminckii): Southern and Eastern Africa [VU]
  • Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis): Palawan province in Philippines [EN]
  • Giant pangolin (Manis gigantea): Along equator in West Africa to Uganda [VU]
  • Tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis): Equatorial Africa [VU]
  • Long-tailed pangolin (Manis tetradactyla): Western and Central Africa [VU]
  • Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata): India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan [EN]
  • Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla): Northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Taiwan, southern China [CR]
  • Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica): Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malysia, Singapore [CR]


IUCN Red list (2014):

Image source:

Pangolin: © petert2 / Fotolia

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