By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 2 January 2012
WELCOME TO 2012! Happy New Year to one and all from everyone here at the Grant Museum. We are going to kick the year off with a request from one of our readers. This week’s specimen of the week, the first for the new year, is a mammal but it has large scales. This week’s specimen of the week is…
1) Pangolins are very unfussy animals. Not only are they found in habitats that are as different from each other as dense forests and sandy deserts, they have also managed to settle down in eastern and southern Africa, plus India and south-east Asia.
2) Pangolins feed on termites which they dig up from termite mounds using the large, strong claws on their forefeet. Once a termite mound has been broken in to, the pangolin will insert its long, sticky tongue to extract the termites.
3) Pangolins are capable of standing upright, and even walking, on their strong hind legs. They use their long, broad tail for balance.
4) When threatened, pangolins will curl up into a ball (click here for images). A female will often carry her young on the base of her tail. When she senses danger she will curl up, encasing the offspring with her body and protecting them both, within the shield of her scales.
5) Pangolins are endangered. In some cultures they are considered lucky charms that possess magical properties. They are sacrificed in rainmaking rituals and scales are used to ‘ward off lions’. However most tragic is Indonesian ‘pangolin foetus soup’. This soup requires the killing of a pregnant female to take the unborn foetus which then pointlessly sits in a soup that is flavoured by other ingredients.