Last pan­golins

The world is run­ning out of time to save its only scaly mam­mal

Down to Earth - - WILDLIFE - SHALEEN ATTRE

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

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