The world is running out of time to save its only scaly mammal
ON THE third Saturday of February,the World Pangolin Day, the Internet was flooded with images and videos of a scaly creature, arousing curiosity of many. While some said it was an armadillo, others were amazed to find that the character from animation series Pokemon was a real animal. Unfortunately, the world’s only scaly mammal could go extinct before most people realise it exists.
Called bajra keet or bajra kapta in Hindi, pangolin is a harmless nocturnal animal with no teeth. It is about the size of a civet cat and lives mainly on ants and termites. Its sticky tongue, which is longer than its body, is specially adapted for reaching and lapping up insects in those deep crevices. To tear open the anthills or termite mounds, it uses the powerful forelimbs that are armed with three disproportionately long claws. In sharp contrast, the hind legs have tough soles and short, blunt nails on the five toes.Though harmless, a pangolin knows how to protect itself. Most of its body parts, except the lower body and face, remains covered with overlapping scales, made from keratin. In the wild, a pangolin curls up into a tight ball as part of its defence mechanism against predators, such as tigers and lions, with the hard keratin scales functioning as an armour. Its keratin armour is, however, useless against poachers who covet the scales. The animal with poor vision is usually shot at or caught by snares,traps and nets. The anteater is in high demand both for its meat and scales in East and Southeast Asian countries, particularly China and Vietnam. Like many other wildlife products, the scales and
meat of pangolin are considered