Scientific name

African White-Bellied (Phataginus tricuspis) Giant Ground (Smutsia gigantea) Ground (Smutsia temminckii) Black-Bellied (Uromanis tetradactyla)


From 1.5 to 33 kilograms (3.5 to 73 pounds) depending on the species.


From 30 to 152 centimeters (12 to 60 inches) depending on the species.

Life span

Little data, estimated up to 20 years


Species dependant: Dense forest, forested savannas, swamp forests, lowland forests, and floodplain grasslands. All species are never far from a water source.




3 to 5 months


Leopards, hyenas, humans

There are
African species
Scales make up for
of their weight
It’s the world’s
trafficked mammal


Demand for pangolin scales and meat is driving this mammal to extinction.

Large-scale trafficking is driven by a belief that pangolin scales have magical and curative properties and demand for their meat. When mixed with bark from certain trees, the scales are thought to neutralize witchcraft and evil spirits. If buried near a man’s door they are said to give an interested woman power over him. The smoke from their scales is thought to improve cattle health, keep lions away, and cure ailments like nose-bleeds.  Although their scales are made of keratin—the same substance that makes up human hair and nails—they are in high demand in certain Asian countries where the scales are believed to cure illnesses ranging from cancer to asthma, and their meat is considered a delicacy. In some areas, tribes believe a sighting of this scaly mammal indicates there will be a drought and the only way to prevent it is by killing the animal.


We are protecting this scaly mammal from extinction:

Promote public awareness.

African Wildlife Foundation, along with partner organizations, creates public awareness campaigns, like the When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too campaign—with celebrities like Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, and Richard Branson—to educate consumers of wildlife products about the damage being done to wildlife populations and the lack of any medicinal or magical properties in pangolin scales.

In the Field
Deploy detection dogs.

Through its Canines for Conservation program, AWF works with wildlife authorities to train and deploy sniffer dog teams to key airports, seaports, and other wildlife trafficking hubs. Dog-and-handler teams have intercepted pangolin scales across the continent on multiple occasions. 

Community Empowerment
Engage communities.

AWF works with communities living near these vulnerable mammals and other wildlife to provide them with tools and incentives for sustainable agriculture that allow them to move away from hunting threatened wildlife for food.



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