Review and images by Lanthanotus; edited by bmathison1972
In recent years, an uncommon and elusive animal reached quite a reputation, especially due to an increase of advertisement as “the most trafficked animal you didn`t know existed”. Although pangolins have existed in the form of toy animals at least since the early 80’s, and have quite impressive appearances in children’s animal books as by famous Rinaldo D. Ami, they keep a surprisingly low profile in public percipience.
One of my most remembered toy animals was a pangolin which I got in a gift box at my doctor’s. I lost it some time later on my way from school, and despite my fascination for these strange and prehistoric looking animals, I did not replace it. Just two years ago I added three pangolin figures to my collection: Schleich’s, Mojo’s and the star of this review, Safari’s.
Probably during the late Cretaceous, the pangolins (Manidae) diverged from the Carnivora which are their closest relatives – not as formerly believed the Xenarthra (anteaters, sloths and armadillos). In those prehistoric times, pangolins had a much wider distribution than today, the Messel Pit near where I live in Germany in fact revealed some impressive fossils of Eomanis, an Eocene pangolin ancestor. Today the distribution lays south of the Sahara and in Southeast Asia. They are hunted for bushmeat and their scales which are believed to heal several ailments. With just one to three youths once a year, reproduction cannot compensate the threats which mankind presses against these fascinating and mysterious animals. Pangolins and the illegal hunting, marketing and consumption gained even more interest in the spring of 2020 as a potential source for the coronavirus which caused the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak.
In 2019 Safari re-released their pangolin figure from 2009 (discontinued in 2012) which appeared in the “Incredible Creatures” line. Although Safari does not market this figure specifically as giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), the proportions and overall look make it the closest choice. With a length of 18.5 cm in direct length, this pangolin is somewhat gigantic and as a result scales badly with probably every animal figure that you will have in your collection. But it is a great toy, made of durable plastic and looking very sympathetic. It is sculpted in an upright pose, which is really nice as pangolins are one of the very few animals that walk on their hindlegs rather than using all four limbs for ground walking. As a toy this allows for great digging opportunities to relive the animal’s activity of hunting for ants and termites in your garden’s sandbox. Also, the scaly coat just gives an interesting haptic feel and makes this figure enjoyable and interesting to touch and examine from all sides.
All these play features praised, the figure is also a great model in terms of sculpting detail. It may not be as crisp and realistic as if made by several other producers that come to mind, but every important detail is there and well executed. If you look for a figure in scale to the rest of your collection, head for other products, but if you search for a charming pangolin toy, I’d say you found it here.