From head to tail the pangolin is covered in deep brown scales that overlap and fit together like the bracts of an artichoke. The solid tail of this unique creature totals two thirds of its entire one-metre length while its highest point when standing is at just 15 cm high. Set back low from its pointy snout, the tiny eyes, ears and neck of the cone shaped face sit under the scaly armour above. With its back legs obscured, its front legs extend forward in almost line with its snout with 5 thick claws on each foot.
Is the Pangolin a mammal or a reptile? It has scales like a reptile, but if you tipped it over - you’d find its belly has hair, a defining feature of mammals. Good luck finding those hairs though, because when threatened pangolins curl up into a tight ball - they can lash out with the sharp scales on their tail.
Pangolins are unique among mammals as they are covered with scaled armour - hence their common name of 'scaly ant-eater'. Pangolins feed almost exclusively on ants and termites and are solitary and mostly nocturnal.
Pangolins are highly sought-after in China for their meat and their scales; their scales being used in traditional medicine. Although sales of the animal are forbidden in China as part of a worldwide ban, they are still smuggled in from a handful of southeast Asian and African countries.
There are eight species that are rated vulnerable to critically endangered, and there are fresh concerns that they may be slaughtered through fear, because of their link to the COVID-19 pandemic. Molecular research implicates pangolins are a possible host of the 2019 coronavirus.