We all know that hybrid animals exist; there are mules, ligers (yeah, they’re real), and pretty much every dog breed on the planet. So what would happen if you crossbred an anteater with a pine cone?
This is a pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater, because sometimes science just isn’t creative. Coming from the Malay word “pengguling” which means “that which rolls up,” the pangolin’s most distinctive feature is a thick set of keratin armor. These overlapping scales continuously grow, and are filed down during the pangolin’s day as it burrows into termite mounds for its favorite snack, which it laps up with a tongue so long that it exceeds the length of its own body.
The claws that the pangolin uses to get into these mounds are long and sharp, giving the creature an extra means of defense. These claws are so long in fact, that they must either walk on their back feet or else on their knuckles. Their main method of defense, however, is their ability to roll into a ball, creating an almost impenetrable barrier to protect it–a little like a “Zelda” boss.
Unfortunately, these scales are also proving to be the pangolin’s downfall. Popular in traditional Asian medicine, where they are believed to stimulate lactation, as well as cure asthma and cancer because “why not,” they are contributing to the overharvesting of these peaceful critters. The pangolin is also a popular form of bush meat, which is something you should never eat, since it provides a direct route for various tropical diseases that can kill you horribly if cooked wrong. This has led the pangolin to be the most trafficked mammal in the world, despite international trade bans, and the pangolin to be listed as “threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Animals, and it has been going on for ages.
So, how do we save the pangolin? Education, people need to know that there are no special qualities to pangolin scales that couldn’t be gained be chewing on your own fingernails. People also need to stop the asinine practice of eating bush meat as a delicacy, as it adds to the threatened status of animals that should be left alone.