Pangolins are classified as the taxonomic order Pholidota. Sometimes called scaly anteaters, living pangolins are native only to Asia (four species) and Africa (four species). The body of the pangolin is unique in that it is covered with hard keratinized scales which provide serve as a defensive armor, but are unfortunately attributed folkloric medicinal qualities. For more details, see: Lim, N. T-L. (2010). Save the Pangolin – Our Scaly Anteater (PP. 24). Singapore: Nature’s Niche Pte. Ltd. and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

Sought for both their scales and their meat, pangolins are among the most trafficked wildlife species on earth. All Asian pangolins are listed under CITES Appendix 1. African species are currently CITES 2, but are rapidly becoming over-exploited to fuel the demand in Asian markets (Pangolins being eaten to extinction).

Pangolins have only rarely ever been housed in North American zoological collections. For those few specimens that had been held in human care, survivability has been poor outside of range countries. Pangolins naturally feed on ants and termites. Dietary items that would best suit the needs of pangolins are not typically available in North America and thus, the challenge of meeting the taxa’s nutritional requirements has probably contributed to their poor history in captivity.

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