Every month, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.
Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This month we’re meeting the world’s most trafficked mammal: the Sunda pangolin.
The Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), also known as the Malayan or Javan pangolin, is a unique mammal native to Southeast Asia. Pangolins are covered by many rows of overlapping scales, which are made from keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and fingernails. The scales never stop growing and are constantly filed down as the animals dig burrows and forage for insects. Pangolins use their acute olfactory senses to find insects and their powerful claws to dig into the ground in search of ant nests or to tear into termite mounds. To collect the insects, they use their extremely long and thin tongues, capable of extending about 25 cm, which are covered with sticky saliva. To protect themselves from ant or termite attacks, pangolins have special muscles that can seal their nostrils, ears, and mouths.
These solitary and nocturnal animals are predated by many animals like tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, wild dogs and pythons. When threatened, they roll into a ball, like armadillos do, hiding their vulnerable belly and other parts not covered by the tough scales. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world. The Sunda pangolin is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN and there is a complete international ban on commercial trade in the species. Watch the video to learn more about this species!
Special thanks to Mr Jonathan Moore and Dr Matthew Luskin for sharing their camera trap footage. Dr Luskin conducts wildlife sampling in Southeast Asia to study the impacts of oil palm on wildlife communities and Mr Moore’s research focuses primarily on animal-plant interactions. You can follow them on Twitter @Jonatha81270041 and @matt_luskin.
Banner image of a Sunda pangolin at a rescue center in Cambodia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino