Pangolins Need Love
December 6, 2006 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Pangolins attain official "cute" status : Since Jonson was kind enough to share the Giant Amazonian Centipede, I thought an equally fascinating creature such as the pangolin (scaly anteater) deserved its own post. It's been mentioned in passing, but no one has drawn attention to the fact that it looks like a walking pine cone (YouTube), that the babies are carried on the mother's tail for several months, and that they come from a family (Pholidota) with only seven living species.

Of course, like nearly everything else on Earth, it is eaten or used as "medicine" by the Chinese, and the combination of deforestation/being eaten as bushmeat has reduced its numbers in Africa.

Unlike the centipede, it's probably not nightmare-inducing, but I don't think I'd want to trip over the giant pangolin on a dark night - especially since they can be up to six feet long. It's a beautiful animal, even inspiring poetry in some.
posted by Liosliath (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry about the mass of text on the front page - this is my first post, so please go easy on me. If Jessamyn can fix it up a little, it would be much appreciated...
posted by Liosliath at 5:47 PM on December 6, 2006

The amount of text is fine (not the paragraph breaks, use [more inside]), and matt and jessamyn are not editors.

That said, this is a good post, and I've never heard of this creature. It looks like a dinosaur.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:53 PM on December 6, 2006

When I was a kid, the pangolin was on my list of most badical animals, for sure.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:55 PM on December 6, 2006

I've been saying they are cute for years, but then I like animals. Particularly obscure animals, and especially obscure animals that by all rights shouldn't be cute.

Take the Aye Aye for instance. Or the Livingston's flying fox. By all rights, they should be ugly. Yet, there is something sweet there.
posted by quin at 6:00 PM on December 6, 2006

It may have made the cute list, but it's no tiny bunny.
posted by clevershark at 6:01 PM on December 6, 2006

Excellent post, I had never heard of this beastie before but it definitely makes my list of awesome animals I'd like to reincarnate as. Preferably not in China.
posted by nightchrome at 6:05 PM on December 6, 2006

It may have made the cute list, but it's no tiny bunny.

Aw, c'mon, it's a weatherproofed tiny bunny. Dinsdale . . . Dinnnnnnnnnsdale.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:08 PM on December 6, 2006

I allways thought pangolins were related to armadillos and anteaters, but it seems not to be the case.

Kinky Friedman has an armadillo neighbor that is somewhat of a pet. I wonder if you can do the same with pangolins?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 6:19 PM on December 6, 2006

Wood pedant here is inclined to say it looks more like a spruce cone than a pine cone.
posted by Anything at 6:19 PM on December 6, 2006

In case you didn't know, pangolins' greatest predators are giant fucking squirrels that stash them, tear them up and eat their insides
posted by Anything at 6:31 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's no Pine Martin but prolly the cutest thing I've seen with scales. Much nicer than ms. spears' caesarian scar.
posted by isopraxis at 6:44 PM on December 6, 2006

Aww, man. So cool.

I for one could care less about the giant front page text useage for once.

[This is good]
posted by loquacious at 6:48 PM on December 6, 2006

he's mighty interesting, all right... but is he really "cute"?
posted by jonson at 6:50 PM on December 6, 2006

The fact that the "poetry" link just points to a collection of critical essays breaks my heart. Moore is my all-time favorite. Enjoy:
Another armored animal--scale
    lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they
form the uninterrupted central
  tail-row! This near artichoke with head and legs and grit-equipped gizzard,
  the night miniature artist engineer is,
      yes, Leonardo da Vinci's replica--
        impressive animal and toiler of whom we seldom hear.
      Armor seems extra. But for him,
        the closing ear-ridge--
          or bare ear lacking even this small
          eminence and similarly safe

contracting nose and eye apertures
    impenetrably closable, are not; a true ant-eater,
not cockroach-eater, who endures
  exhausting solitary trips through unfamiliar ground at night,
  returning before sunrise, stepping in the moonlight,
      on the moonlight peculiarly, that the outside
        edges of his hands may bear the weight and save the claws
      for digging. Serpentined about
        the tree, he draws
          away from danger unpugnaciously,
          with no sound but a harmless hiss; keeping

the fragile grace of the Thomas-
    of-Leighton Buzzard Westminster Abbey wrought-iron vine, or
rolls himself into a ball that has
  power to defy all effort to unroll it; strongly intailed, neat
  head for core, on neck not breaking off, with curled-in feet.
      Nevertheless he has sting-proof scales; and nest
        of rocks closed with earth from inside, which can thus darken.
      Sun and moon and day and night and man and beast
        each with a splendor
          which man in all his vileness cannot
          set aside; each with an excellence!

"Fearful yet to be feared," the armored
    ant-eater met by the driver-ant does not turn back, but
engulfs what he can, the flattened sword-
  edged leafpoints on the tail and artichoke set leg- and body-plates
  quivering violently when it retaliates
      and swarms on him. Compact like the furled fringed frill
        on the hat-brim of Gargallo's hollow iron head of a
      matador, he will drop and will
        then walk away
          unhurt, although if unintruded on,
          he cautiously works down the tree, helped

by his tail. The giant-pangolin-
    tail, graceful tool, as a prop or hand or broom or ax, tipped like
an elephant's trunk with special skin,
  is not lost on this ant- and stone-swallowing uninjurable
  artichoke which simpletons thought a living fable
      whom the stones had nourished, whereas ants had done
        so. Pangolins are not aggressive animals; between
      dusk and day they have not unchain-like machine-like
          form and frictionless creep of a thing
          made graceful by adversities, con-

versities. To explain grace requires
    a curious hand. If that which is at all were not forever,
why would those who graced the spires
  with animals and gathered there to rest, on cold luxurious
  low stone seats--a monk and monk and monk--between the thus
      ingenious roof supports, have slaved to confuse
        grace with a kindly manner, time in which to pay a debt,
      the cure for sins, a graceful use
        of what are yet
          approved stone mullions branching out across
          the perpendiculars? A sailboat

was the first machine. Pangolins, made
    for moving quietly also, are models of exactness,
on four legs; on hind feet plantigrade,
  with certain postures of a man. Beneath sun and moon, man slaving
  to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers worth having,
      needing to choose wisely how to use his strength;
        a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs,
      like the ant; spidering a length
        of web from bluffs
          above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked
          like the pangolin; capsizing in

disheartenment. Bedizened or stark
    naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing-
master to this world, griffons a dark
  "Like does not like like that is abnoxious"; and writes error with four
  r's. Among animals, one has sense of humor.
      Humor saves a few steps, it saves years. Unignorant,
        modest and unemotional, and all emotion,
      he has everlasting vigor,
        power to grow,
          though there are few creatures who can make one
          breathe faster and make one erecter.

Not afraid of anything is he,
    and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an obstacle
at every step. Consistent with the
  formula--warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and a few hairs--that
  is a mammal; there he sits on his own habitat,
      serge-clad, strong-shod. The prey of fear, he, always
        curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work partly done,
      says to the alternating blaze,
        "Again the sun!
          anew each day; and new and new and new,
          that comes into and steadies my soul."
posted by aws17576 at 6:50 PM on December 6, 2006

I apologize if the poem takes up, like, ten screenfuls. I couldn't find a properly formatted version of it on the web.
posted by aws17576 at 6:52 PM on December 6, 2006

he's mighty interesting, all right... but is he really "cute"?

Well, I think so ... but then, I thought the centipede was really cool, not scary at all. (Um, except for catching bats in midair.)
posted by Liosliath at 6:54 PM on December 6, 2006

Oh, you want cute?
posted by Bookhouse at 7:28 PM on December 6, 2006

I don't really like hamsters. I find animals like the fossa extremely cute, though.
posted by Liosliath at 7:36 PM on December 6, 2006

Bushmeat - wild boar, porcupine and pangolin.
posted by tellurian at 8:06 PM on December 6, 2006

Nice post! I saw the pangolins on Cute Overload today, and was very happy to read more about them here. That youtube video is a little mean, though -- the poor pangolin keeps trying to hide and the person keeps on sticking the camera in its face.
posted by deeparch at 8:33 PM on December 6, 2006

I find the Pangolin pretty. I first learned of it when I moved to South Africa, and it was in a book I bought to familiarize with local flora and fauna. I too assumed it was related to the armadilo.

I'm getting rather sick of 'Chinese medicine'. Mao was supposed to be against religion, but it seems he forgot to class their traditional medicine in the same category, unfortunately for so many animals.
posted by Goofyy at 8:54 PM on December 6, 2006

Nice first post, Liosliath - I had never heard of this critter - fascinating!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:38 PM on December 6, 2006

Its meat is considered highly nutritious, and its scales are prescribed to breast-feeding mothers, and for arthritis, asthma and to stopping infants drooling

"Dear, the baby is drooling again! Can you grind up some pangolin and just sort of rub it on his mouth?"
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 10:19 PM on December 6, 2006

Nice post, Liosliath. And I'm with you on the fossa.
posted by maryh at 11:26 PM on December 6, 2006

I wonder if Pangolin can be chicken-fried?

It does look like a walking pine cone.

ok, I'm done
posted by ninjew at 11:42 PM on December 6, 2006

How come there aren't any good images? Is it a vicious killer? The pic of the baby riding on its mother's tail was very cute.
posted by effwerd at 6:07 AM on December 7, 2006

Ah, here is a (very large) gif that clearly proves it is related to the spruce cone.
posted by effwerd at 6:10 AM on December 7, 2006

Okay, not very large just from a slow server.
posted by effwerd at 6:13 AM on December 7, 2006

Story 1:

My brother used to run a small research lab in Liberia. One day he found a few of the lab hands torturing an animal that, based on the description, sounds like a pangolin. None of them had a name for it, though one of them later insisted that it was 'good eating.'

He made them stop, but then he had to figure out what to do with it. So he stuck it in the back of his land cruiser and drove it off into the bush.

Story 2, from an old anthro prof:

One day he was at home, working on something, when some NYPIRG person came to the door and said "I'd like to talk with you about fruit bats."

My prof suddenly got excited. "Fruit bat! I love fruit bat! I haven't had fruit bat stew since I was in the Phillipines!"

NYPIRG person: "No, no! We DON'T want you to eat them."

Prof: "Oh. Never mind. So, what did you want to say?"
posted by lodurr at 7:38 AM on December 7, 2006

They can also walk upright. I was disappointed the YouTube video didn't show this.

Best footage of pangolins is in the Life of Mammals series.
posted by agregoli at 8:35 AM on December 7, 2006

I second the Life of Mammals series by David Attenborough, where I first saw this animal. They are essentially bipedal.
posted by squarehead at 12:20 PM on December 7, 2006

My other half had a pet Pangolin in Bangladesh when he was a kid - for a a day. They fed it eggs and his dad put it in a shed to keep it safe (they were in the city). It barged its way through a very solid door. They sold it on, apparently it was probably killed & used for making local medicines.
posted by jamesonandwater at 12:00 PM on December 10, 2006

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