Wildlife | Cameroon

Wearing cute armour

The pangolin is very popular - and not just in Cameroon. Its protective armour does not seem to protect it very well anymore
On the tail of the upright standing pangolin a young pangolin is holding on. The body of both animals is covered with scales.

The pangolin should be protected by its scales - but they actually led it to the brink of extinction

At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the pangolin for a reptile - but it is a mammal, albeit the only one with a scale-covered body. There are eight different types of the species colloquially known as “pangolin” in Asia and Africa. The animal is widespread in Cameroon, dwelling in caves or rotten tree trunks. It is nocturnal and burrows through the ground in search of ants and termites. In one foray, it can consume up to 200,000 insects.

Its characteristic scales serve to protect the pangolin from lions and leopards. Ironically, the scales are also the reason why no other animal is traded illegally as often as the pangolin. In traditional Asian and West African medicine, scales are believed to have various healing properties.

It is often used as an ingredient in love potions, for protection against evil spirits and against gastrointestinal diseases. In Cameroon, however, the meat of the pangolin is also highly valued, although hunting is officially prohibited. Just look at the special “bushmeat restaurants”.

To draw attention to the threat to this special animal, it was recently declared part of Cameroon's cultural heritage. Even the newly built Olembe Stadium in the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé recalls the pangolin with its colourful roof that looks like overlapping scales.