Pangolins were placed on the Specially Protected Species list since 1975 due to their being highly threatened with extinction, and the Zimbabwean law provides for a mandatory sentence of 9 years for anyone convicted of illegal possession of the animal.

In Africa, the belief in the supernatural world is still prevalent, and although many of the myths and legends have been lost over time some still remain, for instance pangolin is associated with good fortune and its “delicious” meat is considered in some parts as only fit for kings and rulers.

AVAC Arts has two of its artists based at Chitungiza Arts Centre curving and reproducing pangolin sculptures. Morgan Chinjumani’s pangolin curved from spring stone weighs 21.35kg, 87m long, 15m wide and 24m tall. Rony Nyamunga’s pangolin sculpture also from spring stone weighs 7.9kg, 35m long, 9m wide and a height of 21m. both sculptures are going for $350 and $120 respectively.

Pangolins have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin and are the only known mammals with this adaptation. They live in hollow trees or burrows, depending on the species. Pangolins are nocturnal, and their diet consists of mainly ants and termites which they capture using their long, specially adapted tongues (can extend their tongues as much as 40 cm, with a diameter of only 0.5 cm).

It can curl up into a ball when threatened, with its overlapping scales acting as armor and its face tucked under its tail. The scales are sharp, providing extra defense. The front claws are so long they are unsuited for walking, so the animal walks with its fore paws curled over to protect them. Pangolins are also good swimmers.

Pangolins can also emit a noxious-smelling acid from glands near the anus, similar to the spray of a skunk. The size of pangolins varies by species, ranging from 30 to 100 cm. Females are generally smaller than males.

Pangolins have a very poor sense of vision, and therefore rely heavily on smell and hearing. Pangolins lack teeth and, therefore, the ability to chew, however, they ingest small stones while foraging, which accumulate in the muscular stomach and help to grind up ants.

They are also in great demand in China and Vietnam because their meat is considered a delicacy and some believe pangolin scales have medicinal qualities to stimulate lactation or cure cancer or asthma.

A coat of armor made of pangolin scales, an unusual object, was presented to George III in 1820.

AVAC Arts.

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