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The Tree Pangolin!

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The tree pangolin is one cute and fascinating animal!

The tree pangolin is one cute and fascinating animal!

via San Diego Zoo Animals

via San Diego Zoo Animals

The tree pangolin is one cute and fascinating animal!

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Most people think that mammals only have fur or hair, but they can also have scales. Tree pangolins are the only mammals on Earth that have them. There are eight pangolin species, with the tree pangolin being the most common pangolin in the forests of Africa. Pangolins have yellowish-brown scales made of keratin that cover most of their body, with soft, light brown hairs on their belly and face. Their scales are sharp enough to penetrate and slice the skin of humans and other predators. Their tails are bare at the tip, allowing better grip on branches of trees for the tree pangolin to hang on. Size wise, they vary from 12 to 34 inches in length, and weigh about 3.7 to 5.3 pounds. They use their knuckles to walk slowly along branches, balancing using their tail. They are also skilled swimmers and climbers, and can run at pretty fast speeds when needed.

Because they live in rainforests in Central Africa, a pangolin mainly dines on ants and termites.  Pangolins may not have teeth, but their long tongue allows them to catch insects to eat. Their long, curled claws are another handy tool that the tree pangolin uses to reach into ant and termite nests, or to pull off tree bark to find more bugs to dine on. They may have poor vision and hearing, but they have an excellent sense of smell. Females typically spend up to 3 to 4 hours to look for food, while a male might spend up to 10 hours.

Even though they are solitary animals, tree pangolins still have to find a mate. Females give birth to usually one baby at a time. When the baby is born, it weighs about 3-16 ounces, and has soft scales, which harden after a few days. Their eyes are open, but they cannot walk right away, so they spend the first few weeks clinging onto the mom’s tail. To protect the baby from predators, the mom will curl up in a ball around the baby, creating a coat of armour around them. Like a skunk, Pangolins can also spray a vile smelling liquid if they feel threatened.

Unfortunately, the tree pangolin’s current status is near threatened or vulnerable. While their natural predators include leopards, hyenas, and pythons, humans have taken the biggest toll on the species. The rainforests that make their homes in are disappearing, and people are hunting them for their meat and skin. Some cultures hunt for pangolin scales, which are believed to have healing powers and are used for ceremonies. All eight types of pangolins are endangered, especially the Asian pangolin, and if it were to go extinct, the number of tree pangolins killed would increase drastically. Kraemer student Kaitlin K. states,” I have never heard of the tree pangolin before, but I think it is an animal that should be researched more often.” Much awareness about this creature needs to be spread in order to save this wonderful and unique species.

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The Tree Pangolin!