The curious Pangolins are the only mammals which feature armor-like scales made of keratin covering their body. They eat mostly insects and, when faced with danger, will curl into a ball to protect their sensitive underbelly. There are eight species of Pangolins found in Africa and Asia.
Pangolins share many features with other mammals. Their longsnouts contain long tongues for snatching insects, as well as sharpclaws for digging, just like an anteater. Their armor makes themappear similar to armadillos, and they can spray a stinky chemicalwhen threatened, like a skunk. They were originally classified inthe order Xenarthra, due to their similarity to sloths, anteatersand armadillos, but recent genetic studies have linked them closerto the order Carnivora, which includes cats, dogs, hyenas, bears,and seals.
Each of the eight species of Pangolin are listed as threatenedin some way by the International Union for the Conservation ofNature. Some are listed as "Vulnerable" while others are considered"Critically Endangered". The largest and most well-known species,the Giant Pangolin (Smutsia gigantean) is found in Africa and facesserious threats to its population due to habitat loss. They arealso hunted for their scales, which some falsely believe to havemedicinal properties.