Did you know that there is a mammal that has scales? I didn’t until I read Operation Pangolin by Suzie Eszterhas (Millbrook, 2023). This book refers to one man’s mission to save the dwindling population of pangolins from human poachers.
I hadn’t even heard of this small reptile-looking, ant-eating mammal. Surprisingly, it is more closely related to carnivores like wolverines than to the ant-eater, who I think it looks like! Scientists also do not know a lot about pangolins, so all help for them is also research. The animals are small, shy, and territorial, and they live in grasslands in Africa and Asia.
Pangolins defend themselves by rolling up into a ball, so only their scales can be seen. That doesn’t stop their largest predator: humans. They are in danger of extinction because humans seek their keratin scales for folk medicine and their meat as a delicacy. More than a million pangolins have been illegally poached in the last 20 years. During that time, a man named Thai Van Ngyuen has been rescuing pangolins from poachers, providing medical care, and releasing them back into the wild. Of all he’s recused, 85% successfully rehabilitate!
Thai’s story was very encouraging. It’s so sad that these animals have been endangered because of humans, but it is nice that there are scientists studying the pangolin and helping them return to their homes. This book was lovingly illustrated with photographs of pangolins, diagrams, and maps, and the captions gave some additional information that was not found in the text. It was very nicely put together, and a wonderful book for learning about a little-known endangered animal.
Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review consideration.