The pangolin’s specialized diet is one reason you won't find many pangolins in zoos. There are regulations about importing the types of insects they eat. The San Diego Zoo had a Temminck’s pangolin and two Malayan pangolins in the 1960s. Our first white-bellied tree pangolin arrived at the San Diego Zoo in 2007 from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which entrusted him to our care. Named Baba for a native tribe in Cameroon, he was being fed with a feeding tube because he wasn’t taking food on his own. Our nutritionist created a blend of ground-up insectivore pellets and liquid for Baba. He learned to lick up his food from a bowl rather than having to continue to be tube-fed, and he soon thrived. Baba lived at the Children's Zoo for many years and was a guest favorite as an amazing ambassador for his species. He was estimated to be 10 years old when he passed away in September 2016, and was one of the longest living African white-bellied tree pangolins recorded.
Humans are taking their toll on pangolins. People are clearing rain forest areas for their own use and hunting pangolins for their meat and skin. Some believe pangolin scales can guard against evil spirits. Others use them for rain-making ceremonies. The scales are even believed by some to have healing powers when ground into powder or worn as ornaments.
Extinction threatens all eight pangolin species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists tree pangolins as vulnerable. If the Asian pangolin species become extinct, the use of Africa’s tree pangolins for human need will increase. The organization held its first-ever global conference on pangolin conservation in 2014.
You can help us bring pangolins back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.