Pangolins As Pets – Is That Possible In The USA?

Before I even respond to the question, you should know that a wild animal can never be delighted when taken away from its natural habitat. Human homes are noisy and scary – wild animals will never feel peaceful there. Pangolins, like wild animals, are protected by the law. So, it is almost impossible to have them as pets.

Pangolins are timidly shy creatures that enjoy living in the wilderness’s quiet. If a human took them in, they would not appreciate and enjoy their stay. Think about the house’s situation:  music is blaring, telephones are ringing, people are shouting, and children are screaming. No wild animal – even the pangolin – can survive the stress of cohabiting a space with humans. This is likely to make the mammal die too early.

The other reason why it is impossible to keep pangolins as pets is their dietary needs – these are hard to meet. You will need to provide about 20,000 ants every day. On top of that, the pangolins will need to have friends of their species for social growth. I bet that the wildlife center near you will say that pangolins are out of bounds.

If you feel a certain connection with the pangolins, try contributing to their protection and that of their habitats. You can get information on the protection program from your local wildlife center.

Now that we’ve established that it is impossible to have pangolins as pets, why don’t we pay attention to the animal itself? From this point forward, we shall look at the nitty-gritty details of this wild animal. At the end of this read, you will get a list of wild animals you can take up as pets. Read on.

In And Around The Pangolin

The distinctive feature of pangolins is their scales – they are tough and overlap each other. Here is a tabulation of the eight types of pangolins:

Type Of PangolinContinent Of NativityRed List Category By IUCN
Ground pangolinAfricaVulnerable
Giant pangolinAfricaEndangered
Black-bellied pangolinAfricaVulnerable
Philippine pangolin AsiaCritically Endangered
Chinese pangolinAsiaCritically Endangered
Sunda pangolinAsiaCritically Endangered
White-bellied pangolinAfricaEndangered
Indian pangolinAsiaEndangered

A press release by the Natural Resource Defense Council notes that the pangolin is the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. It also captures that at the moment, it is in grave danger of becoming extinct. That there means that the pangolin cannot be taken up as a pet. The reason behind the animal’s red-list status is the intense poaching activities in the continents of their nativity.

How Pangolins Look

These mammals have a sticky and long tongue, which they use to eat termites and ant. When they are presented with a threatening situation, they roll themselves up, becoming a tight scaly ball. 

This animal shares similar physical characteristics with sloths, anteaters, and armadillos. However, they are closely related to bears, dogs, and cats. The one trait that stands out for the black-bellied pangolins is their adeptness at climbing. They take advantage of their semi-prehensile tail and claws to climb trees.

There are variations among the pangolin species. The least size of a pangolin is about 3½ pounds, and the maximum about 73 pounds. The colors of the mammal are anything from dark brown to olive through yellowish-brown to light. As already mentioned, most of a pangolin body is covered by overlapping scales that play a protective role. Keratin – the same protein forming human fingernails and hair – is what makes up the scales. The scales of a pangolin can be likened to the human hair as it grows throughout their lives. The only part of the pangolin’s body that lacks scale is the underside.

The main difference between the African and Asian pangolin species is this: some bristles emerge from between the overlapping scales of the four Asian pangolins. These bristles are absent when you look at the scales of the African species.

The pangolin’s head is conical, and their jaws do not have teeth. As already mentioned, the animals have sticky tongues that can penetrate cavities seamlessly to pick out insects. The pangolin’s full tongue can be as long as half of the animal’s body and head.

The limbs of this mammal are well adapted for the business of digging because of their stoutness. On each paw is five toes. To help them demolish termite and ant nests, they have long curved claws. When they start digging, the animals usually engage all their four limbs in shuffling. Between the digging, they catch breaths by rising their hind limbs.

Where Pangolins Live

Pangolins are not confined to one habitat – they live in various habitats, from arid deserts to tropical forests. As already indicated in the table, four of the pangolin species (Indian, Chinese, Sunda, and Philippines) occur across Asia. The other four are found south of the Sahara Desert in Africa: the giant pangolin, the white-bellied pangolin, the black-bellied pangolin, and the ground pangolin.

In those two continents, you will find pangolins in habitats like cleared and cultivated areas, thick brush, savannah grasslands, and flooded and tropical forests. Generally speaking, you are likely to find a family of pangolins in a place where termites and ants are in large numbers.

Because of human uses such as agriculture and the like, the pangolins native to Asia could ultimately lose their habitats. To fulfill nesting and sleeping purposes, pangolins ensure that the burrows they dig are deep enough. Also, they have interesting chambers formed in a circular style. Some of the sections in the burrows that have been discovered by research can fit an entire human standing up. The Sunda pangolin is known for sleeping in the logs and the forks and hollows of trees.

What Pangolins Eat

In a year, a grown-up pangolin can eat up to 70 million insects (termites, ants). This implies that these mammals predominantly live on a diet of termites and ants. On the side, they supplement that insect diet with other invertebrates that include crickets, worms, flies, larvae, and earthworms. Because of this specialist diet, it is incredibly challenging to take care of them while in captivity. If they are fed with foreign food, the pangolins often reject it and when given unfamiliar insect species, they show a lack of interest.

A well-developed and completely reliable olfactory sense help wild pangolins triangulate the location of an insect nest. Their tongues and claws allow them to dig up termites and ants from fallen logs, stumps, and mounds.

The good thing about the insatiable appetite of pangolins for insects is this – pangolins take up the pest control role in the ecosystem. If an adult pangolin can take down 70 million insects, a handful of pangolins can control the population of termites and ants.

To ensure that their ears are shut and nostrils are sealed during the digging, the superior muscles they have usually rise to the occasion. The mouths also have particular muscles that ensure that termites and ants do not escape the mammal’s capture.

How Pangolins Behave

These mammals are nocturnal animals that are solitary and highly secretive. This makes it difficult for scientists to study and observe them in their natural habitats. The sleep patterns of the pangolin vary with different species. If you pay attention to the Chinese pangolin, you will find that it sleeps during the day in underground burrows. Others like Sunda pangolins and the black-bellies ones take their sleep and naps in trees. They only come out when evening kicks in to forage for insects.

As already mentioned, these animals are immensely gifted for the purpose of digging and burrowing. While using their rear legs and tails for balance and support, they engage their strong front claws and legs. The Chinese pangolins that live in temperate areas stay in their deep burrows when the winter months come. These burrows are excavated strategically near the nests of termites. This ensures that the pangolins get food until winter passes. Chinese legends have it that the pangolin travels underground to all parts of the world. In the Cantonese language, pangolins go by the name ‘Chun-shua-cap.’ This refers to a ‘scaly hill-borer’ or an animal that digs exhaustingly through the hills.

It is notable that all eight pangolin species share habits and characteristics, but this does not imply that there are no differences between them. While ground pangolins are dwellers of the ground (or terrestrial ecosystems), you will see white-bellied pangolins spend most of their time climbing trees (arboreal ecosystems).

The four species of Asian pangolins are foragers – you can find them on the ground and in the trees. In Sri Lanka, the Indian pangolins live in the canopies because their flowers and fruits attract ants. They do this instead of remaining on the ground where there is a limited supply of food and sheer darkness. Other species have tails that help them to climb by hanging and grasping on the trees.

The overlapping scales of pangolins ensure that the mammals remain defensive when predators approach. When you try to poke a pangolin, it will curl up like a hedgehog into a ball. This ensures that the scale-less undersides remain protected. On top of curling up, they puff, hiss, and lash their tails, which have sharp edges.

To identify their territories, pangolins use markers like urine, feces, and special secretions. The scattering and spraying of fecal matter and other fluids ensures that no other pangolins invade their territory. Scientists hypothesize that the pangolins use the odor for advertising sexual status, showing dominance, and assisting in individual recognition.

How Pangolins Reproduce And Their Lifespan

Like many other wild animals, there is a significant difference between the weight of males and that of females. In some species, the males are about 10 to 50 percent weightier than their female counterparts. When a pangolin gets to two years of age, they reach and achieve sexual maturity.

Many female pangolins give live birth to only one offspring. However, in the Asian species, it has been noted that some deliver two or three little ones. At birth, a baby pangolin weighs around 12 ounces. They come out with their scales being pale and soft, but they started hardening the following day. The mothers have high maternal instincts, and they nurture and nurse their little ones in the burrows. When she feels threatened or is sleeping, the mother will roll around her baby pangolin to ensure that it remains protected. Nursing happens for about four months, but the baby can start eating ants and termites when she is a month old. The mother will go hunting with her pangolin baby, who will be riding on the tail of her mother.

In the wild, there is little that is known about the longevity of pangolins. However, they can live up to twenty years if they are in captivity.

How Pangolins And Humans Interact

Humans have brought the worst of themselves when it comes to interacting with pangolins. Most of the species are critically endangered, meaning that humans have been poaching them. For the most part, poachers take down pangolins for their scales and meat. These parts are used in the making of traditional Chinese medicine.

Up to this date, no pangolin has successfully been domesticated. Pangolins are species protected by law. If you harm, traffic, or own them, legal action could be taken against you.

How To Care For Pangolins

It is incredibly challenging for humans to care for pangolins. This is because each species has its own dietary needs. The Pangolin Consortium, a pro-conservation partnership for protecting pangolins worldwide, has expertly developed a diet derived from insects. This diet has had a positive impact and has boosted the pangolin’s survival rates, specifically those under human care.

The Consortium has successfully bred the pangolins in zoos. In the program, 50 of the white-bellied pangolins species are bearing and thriving excellently.

Bonus Section: Wild Animals That You Can Pet In The USA

Enough about pangolins as pets. Due to their endangered-ness, pangolins cannot be kept as pets. If you want a wild animal you can have as a pet, the search is only beginning. This bonus section looks at providing you with some wild animals you can pet in the USA.

While you go through the list, you should know that you just can’t get a wild animal and start petting it. You need to ensure that the local, state and federal laws accommodate it. As you check out the tigers and prairie dogs, talk to the officials at the wildlife center near you. They will help you know what to do to have the wild animal as your pet.

1. Prairie Dogs

If you go to YouTube’s search engine and tap a few keywords, you will get many videos showing prairie dogs that have been domesticated and are playing with other pets. These animals are committed, social, and intelligent, making them fun being around. Since they are quite territorial, they will protect you from unfamiliar people. Before you go for a prairie dog, check what your state says about petting them.

2. Fennec Foxes

Of all the foxes, these are the smallest. While the ferret fox isn’t the best human companion, many reports have spoken of their huge demand. To handle this type of fox, you need to have a lot of energy as it is actively friendly. Apart from playtime attention, the fox will need grooming, nail clipping, feeding, and socialization. This should give you the impression that caring for these wild animals is not a straightforward thing.

3. Minks

American minks have been homed in farms for about 100 years now, the sole purpose being breeding. However, if caught young, they can be tamed. Your cats will not like the minks because they will dominate the cats. Minks are useful since they help to chase rats away from their holes. Although the mink is intelligent and clever, you may need a lot of patience because it will take long before being trained and fully domesticated.

4. Sugar Gliders

Before we move any further, I need to clarify that these animals are not rodents, like many people think. They are marsupials that share the same family as the koala bear and the kangaroo. For 15 years now, they have been bred as home or household pets after domestic breeding. Sugar gliders love vegetables and fruits. Their name comes from the gliding membrane stretching between their ankles and wrists. Sugar gliders have no odor, and they live a clean life such that you won’t need to bathe them.

5. The Capybaras

The legality of domesticating these animals is not guaranteed in every state. If you choose a capybara as your exotic, wild animal pet, you need to get several of them. This increases their chances of happiness since the rodents love to live in groups. Facts about the capybara say that these rodents can be as giant as twice a jackrabbit’s size. If you get this one, ensure that you give it enough space on the outside to thrive.

6. The Mongoose

Many people agree that the mongoose is an adorable animal. Before you choose to go into domesticating one, ensure that the practice is legal in your state. Also, you need to look up and see if there are vet specialists who can handle mongooses. The size of a mongoose is between a squirrel (which is bigger) and a cat (which is smaller). If you give it freedom, the mongoose will behave amicably. If you take this wild animal in, ensure that it is not confined in a small area. This may lessen its chances of becoming a playful and friendly critter.

7. Serval Cats

The domestic breeding of the serval cats goes back to the 1960s. The serval cats you see in houses these days were never taken from the wild. Pet owners have reported that serval cats make excellent companions. If you feel like a serval cat is the one you want to tame, prepare your heart to be patient as it takes a long time to bond with it.

8. The Degu

The degu is a rodent that looks like the guinea pig and is endemic to Central Chile. You should know that these little ones like living below 68° F. If you expose them to temperatures warmer than that, they are like to develop stress that can lead to a stroke.

They have a particular resistance to extreme chills, and the conditions they don’t like are the damp and wet ones. If you bring a degu into your house, consider getting a tree branch from an oak, ash, pear, beech, or apple tree to use in cage furnishing. Like other rodents, the degu will enjoy gnawing them. It would be best to have a digging box, a sand bath, and an exercise wheel in the cage.

9. The Axolotls

These are salamander-like amphibians that live entirely underwater. When you get an axolotl, you just need to ensure that the water flow and temperatures are excellently controlled. As you take it captive, know that they readily breed. They are very interactive pets, thanks to their tame and bold nature. If you decide to go for an axolotl, you should get an aquarium that is upwards of 20 gallons. This is because the little creatures produce a lot of waste.

10. Skunks

You may be afraid of the stink, but you don’t have to. This is because the stink glands of young skunks can be removed. If you get a skunk, prepare to give it a lot of affection and attention as well as entertaining their curiosity. Many states do not allow people to own skunks, and if they do, you will be asked to produce a permit or a license 

11. Tigers

In the USA, the estimated bracket given for the tigers being petted is 5000-7000. These figures are a little hard to believe, considering that the number of tigers in the wild is less. If you decide to go for a tiger, be prepared to spend anything from $300. It shouldn’t cost you more than it would if you went for a purebred dog.

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