Science Snippet: The Disappearing Pangolins

Pity the pangolins! Know what they are? These relatives of cats, dogs, and bears are among the most threatened mammals on earth. Native to Asia and parts of Africa, a million pangolins have disappeared over the past decade, and in Asia alone 80 percent have been killed for their meat and scales – yes, they are the only mammal covered with scales. The broad scales, made of tough keratin, the stuff of fingernails, hair, and rhino horn, are used in folk “medicines.” These unusual mammals, ranging in length from 12 to 39 inches, resemble dinosaurs as they walk on their hind legs with their long tails dragging behind. Pangolins are insect eaters that use their body-length tongues to probe anthills and capture ants on its sticky tip. When threatened a pangolin rolls up into a tight ball with its protective scales to the outside. Seeing a scaly pangolin as a milk-suckling mammal challenges one’s imagination. “World Pangolin Day” is Feb. 18, 2017, so I propose a Door County celebration for next winter. Count me in! (, Dec. 13, 3016; … “the-artichoke-with-legs-earns-top-trade-protection,” Sept. 28, 2016;