Can You Own A Pet Pangolin?

Do pangolins make good pets? No, they don’t! These animals are very special in many regards, but like most wild animals, they should be left where they belong: In nature. In most countries, it’s illegal to keep this species as a pet and you would have trouble making them thrive. Sadly, most pangolins in captivity die after a short period of time.

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Pangolin looking into the camera

What Is A Pangolin?

Before I’m going into the details of why pangolins shouldn’t be kept as pets, let’s discuss what they actually are.

Pangolins are the only mammal with scales, which alone makes them fascinating animals. Often it’s also the reason why people want to own them. They are just too special and cool.

However, often they are referred to as anteaters or aardvarks when people talk about them. But the only thing they have in common is their diet. In reality, these species aren’t related at all. Instead, researchers found that they evolved convergent and gave them their own order Pholidota.

There are 8 species of pangolins that live in Asian and African regions:

  • Cape pangolin
  • Tree pangolin
  • Giant ground pangolin
  • Long-tailed pangolin
  • Indian pangolin
  • Philippine pangolin
  • Chinese pangolin
  • Sunda pangolin

All of them are endangered and near to the cliff of extinction.

Is It Legal To Keep A Pet Pangolin?

Pangolin searching for food on sand

No, you can’t legally keep a pet pangolin in the US nor in Canada and most other western countries. It also doesn’t matter if you live in a state with strict laws like California or not.

The reason for it is that pangolins are on the highest level of protection. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed them in Appendix I.

This means that trading live or dead animals, as well as parts of them, is strictly forbidden.

Pangolins Aren’t Domesticated

Pangolins aren’t domesticated. Unlike other wild animals, this species can’t be tamed. This fact alone should let you stay away from pet pangolin.

But it gets worse, they can’t get house-trained and they have strong scent glands, meaning your house would get smelly just like when you would decide on a pet binturong or pet honey badger.

Noisy and environments with a lot of activity mean a high stress level for pet pangolins. That can lead to aggressive behavior and your pet might turn into a violent and destructive monster. It might decide to bite you or destroy all your furniture.

Pangolins Are Endangered

Pangolins are an endangered species and researchers fear their extinction. In Asian countries, mostly China, rich people show their wealth by ordering expensive pangolin meat in restaurants.

As the economy thrives in these countries, more and more people can afford the expensive prices. The demand is actually so high that a portion of the supply has to come from Africa. 

Smugglers organize the illegal trade and ask for high prices to compensate for their risk. But it’s still a worthwhile business.

Pangolins Die In Captivity

Curled up pangolin

Sadly pangolins are very sensitive to stress. Most individuals die just a short time after they were captured in the wild. Those who are meant to be shipped from Africa to Asia often don’t arrive alive.

While we’re talking about keeping them as pets here, it’s not very different. Apart from stress, their diet is another reason why the lifespan of pet pangolins is so short. 

Like anteaters or aardvarks, this species lives solely on ants and termites. But in this case, there is no substitute that they want to eat, nor one that meets all their requirements.

Most pangolins in captivity die through starvation and get only a few weeks old.

Is It Ethical To Have A Pangolin As A Pet?

It’s not only a question of your morals here. Apart from the suffering of the animal and their red list status, why should you pay a large sum for a pet that will die shortly after you made the purchase?

I don’t know and I bet nor will every pet owner.

How Much Is A Pet Pangolin?

There are no pangolins for sale, not a pet shop and not from a breeder. So how should I know how high the price for a baby pangolin is? Honestly, I don’t know.

But I know that most likely you can buy one if you are willing to pay enough. But you would have to look at the black market and make contacts with criminal people. Those kinds of people no one wants to have contact with.

And you would have to pay a lot more than $10,000 for just one individual. That’s a number I estimate after looking at the meat prices in Asia. In a restaurant, you pay around $3,000 for a kilo of meat. So the living animal which must be transported into the US should be much more expensive right?