Among other notable characteristics is their armadillo-like ability to curl up into a virtually impenetrable ball, but they also have largely unheralded capabilities as our armoured allies in the climate fight. The clue is in their other, perhaps more familiar name: scaly anteaters are capable of hoovering up industrial quantities of insects – 70 million a year, according to some estimates. In satisfying their enormous appetite for ants, these sticky-tongued termite terminators are performing a vital service for us too, acting as unpaid forest guardians and gardeners.
What’s more, their powerful claws enable them to unearth subterranean termite nests and dig deep burrows – up to 40 metres long in the case of the giant pangolin – activities that are hugely beneficial for the soil.
When we protect pangolins, we’re not just ensuring the survival of one of the world’s quirkiest, cutest and most endangered creatures. We’re also protecting their forest habitat, which in turn is protecting our planet from some of the worst effects of climate change by sequestering vast quantities of carbon in the vegetation and soil.