One of the weirdest-looking creatures in Africa is the ground pangolin, or Cape pangolin. Although he has four feet, he often walks on his hind legs with his shorter, clawed front legs close to his body. His is covered in brown keratin scales that overlap. He curls up into a ball of armoured scales to protect himself and the mother protects her baby by curling around him.
If you see a pangolin in real life, consider yourself very lucky, as they are nocturnal animals and considered vulnerable, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s 2016 Red List of Mammals.
Natural predators and threats
Lions, leopards and hyenas are the pangolin’s natural predators, but their biggest threat is humans. Both their scales and meat are in demand in African and Asian markets. In Asia, the pangolin’s organs are seen as a delicacy and it is believed that their scales contain medicinal value. In Africa, the pangolin is used for muti and bush meat.
According to one of South Africa’s indigenous cultures, seeing a pangolin is a sign of drought and killing the animal will stop the drought.
Another threat for this species is electric fences. Although pangolins use their sharp claws to dig holes under them, they sometimes get entangled in the fence and electrocute themselves.
Road and habitat loss are other reasons why pangolin numbers are decreasing.
The pangolin is an ant and termite eater. He sticks his narrow head into ant hills and uses his long tongue to penetrate the tunnels. The ants and termites stick to the thick saliva on his tongue, which he then gathers in his mouth. He doesn’t have teeth to chew and the sand that gets into his mouth helps to grind his food.
The mother raises her single baby in a burrow. The baby’s scales are soft at birth and harden from the second day. The baby will suckle for about three to four months, but will start eating termites from about one month. The mother moves her baby after the first month by ‘carrying’ him on her tail.