Pangolins are unique mammals that can be viewed while on tour to Uganda. They are strange looking creatures covered with defensive hornlike and overlapping scales and are also referred to scaly anteaters. Locally in Uganda, they are a totem in the Buganda tradition and a clan is named with the same. It is referred to as “olugave” in the local ganda dialect. The English name “pangolin” is derived from the Malay word ‘pengguling’ meaning “something that rolls up”.
Globally there are eight species of pangolins, four from Asia and four from Africa. Uganda is gifted to be home to all four of the African species. The species found when one undertakes a safari to Uganda are Giant Pangolin, ground pangolin, black bellied pangolin and white bellied pangolin. Their scales are made of keratin and they can have lengths ranging from 30cm to 140cm. The males are often larger as compare to their female counterparts. The Giant pangolin specie can weigh up to 33 kilograms and have a long snout and thick tail.
The pangolins are mainly found in the savanna and rain forests with a high termite population as the latter is art of their diet. These creatures also love areas with water like swamps and do not like inhibit high altitude areas.
These mammals are mainly insectivorous and the diet consists of various ants and termites and maybe supplemented with larvae. Daily a pangolin can consume about 200 grams of insects. They also have a poor sense of vision so are majorly dependent on smell and hearing. Pangolins also lack teeth and hence cannot be able to chew. They use their powerful claws to dig into trees and ingest small stones while foraging that help in grinding ants.
Pangolins live a solitary life and only come together to mate. The gestation period ranges from 70 to 150 days depending on species. African species give birth to one offspring at a time while those from Asia can produce up to three at the same time. At birth the scales are soft, slippery and white. Later they darken after several days and after two years are fully mature.
Pangolins are the most illegally trafficked animal in the world with a high demand in China and Vietnam. Their meat is considered as a delicacy and scales are believed to have medical properties which makes then the most sought out for bush meat. Many of the species are threatened to extinction which prompted an international ban of the trade of pangolins. The Uganda Wildlife Authority is among the partners in the fight to end poaching of pangolins. They are promoting awareness of the creatures and advise all stakeholders to take time to find the creatures that are nocturnal so rare during the day. With the correct approach, the future of these beautiful pangolin creatures is bright for Safaris in Uganda.