Animals, Vocabulary Worksheets

PRECIOUS PANGOLINS – Nature Vocabulary Worksheet

A pangolin walks across flat stony ground

A) Before you start reading, match these words with their definitions.

1. quirkya) to search for food
2. scalesb) a group of babies born at the same time to the same mother
3. snoutc) to tear something
4. to seald) a little strange
5. broode) to close tightly
6. to ripf) to hunt illegally
7. to forageg) the long protruding nose of some animals, eg. pigs, bears and most dogs
8. to poachh) small thin plates covering fish and reptiles’ bodies


B) Fill the gaps with these words:

bark, bears, claws, deter, forest, horns, insatiable, native, offspring, phenomenally, role, swallow

Pangolins are shy and quirky-looking creatures. They are unique in that they are the only mammals with scales.

These scales are made of keratin, the same substance found in hair, fingernails, and a) __________. Thanks to their appearance, behaviour, and diet, pangolins are sometimes known as scaly anteaters. 

Yet, despite their appearance, pangolins are actually more closely related to carnivores such as dogs and b) __________. It’s strange when you consider that pangolins don’t have teeth!

There are eight different kinds of pangolin, including the black-bellied pangolin and the Sunda pangolin. Four species are c) __________ to Asia and four to Africa.

Depending on their species, they are found in a wide variety of habitats from tropical d) __________ to savannah or desert. Most live on the ground but some are tree-dwelling.

These solitary, and generally nocturnal creatures have a long slender snout and a e) __________ long tongue. Fully stretched, it’s about forty centimetres long! The tongue is narrow and sticky, perfect for slurping up insects from tunnels and hard-to-reach places. 

Their strong f) __________ allow them to rip into ant and termite mounds or to tear g) __________ off trees.

Since they don’t have teeth, pangolins h) __________ insects whole. They ingest stones and they also have spines inside their stomach which help to break down their food.

Pangolins play a vital ecological i) __________ in that they help to keep down ant and termite populations. This is why they are known as guardians of the forest. It is estimated that, thanks to their j) __________ appetite, pangolins can polish off seven million insects a year!

To protect them while they are foraging, pangolins have strong muscles which help to seal shut their nostrils and ears so that the ants and termites can’t bite them.

When threatened pangolins behave like armadillos and hedgehogs – they roll up into a tight ball. Their hard scales act like a suit of armour, protecting their head and soft belly. This is in fact how pangolins got their name –  ‘pengguling’ in Malay means ‘something that rolls up’. 

This defensive ball can k) __________ predators as formidable as lions, but unfortunately, it’s this very posture that makes them so easily caught by humans who can just pick them up.

Pangolins don’t have big broods. African pangolins usually give birth to just one pup, whilst Asian pangolins only have one to three l) __________. When they are born the pangopups have soft scales which soon harden. The mothers will curl around their young to protect them while they are sleeping or if they sense danger.

Not so fun facts

Tragically, these gentle and fascinating creatures face immense threats to their survival such as poaching and habitat loss. 

They are regarded as the most trafficked mammal in the world, due to a high demand for their meat and scales. 

In some areas of Asia, pangolin meat is regarded as a delicacy and pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine, despite the fact that, as with rhino horn, there is no scientific evidence of health benefits. 

All eight species are listed as threatened with extinction, two are critically endangered.

Pangolin rolled into a tight ball. Stony ground.


Exercise A

1 d)
2 h)
3 g)
4 e)
5 b)
6 c)
7 a)
8 f)

Exercise B

a) horns
b) bears
c) native
d) forest
e) phenomenally
f) claws
g) bark
h) swallow
i) role
j) insatiable
k) deter
l) offspring

If you’d like a printable version of Precious Pangolins, see link at the top.

Find out more about pangolins and why we should care about their fate

A Pangolin’s Tale

National Geographic

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Animals, Vocabulary Worksheets

SPLENDID SLOTHS – Vocabulary and ‘Slow’ Idioms Worksheet

Sloth climbing tree

Javier Mazzeo, @Unsplash


Fill the gaps with the following words:

belief, benefit, detection, hooked, lungs, mammal, moths, swivel, tinge, tropical, vulnerable, weigh     

Sloths have been around for over sixty million years, and until ten thousand years ago there was also even a giant sloth. These super-sized sloths called Megatherium could grow to the size of an elephant and a) __________ up to four tonnes!

Today sloths are found in the b) __________ forests of Central and South America. There are six species, two species are two-toed, and four are three-toed. Curiously though, it’s the number of claws on the forelimbs that is different, as all the species have three ‘toes’ on their back legs. So perhaps we should call them two-fingered and three-fingered sloths!

Sloths are named for their extreme slowness. The pygmy three-toed sloth is in fact the slowest c) _________ in the world, moving at a speed of only 0.24 km/h.

Contrary to popular d) __________, however, sloths aren’t lazy. Their slow-paced lifestyle is a vital part of their survival kit as it helps them conserve valuable energy. Another bonus of moving so slowly is that it helps them avoid e) __________ by formidable predators such as jaguars and harpy eagles who hunt using sight.

Not only are sloths slowcoaches, but their digestion is also very slow – it can take weeks to digest just one leaf!

You may have noticed that sloths often seem to have green fur. This green f) __________ comes from algae. It turns out that a sloth’s shaggy coat is quite the ecosystem – providing a home not only to algae, but also to fungi, g) __________, and other insects. In return, the green colour lends the sloths camouflage, helping them blend into the canopy. Sloths may also h) __________ by snacking on the algae or other inhabitants in their fur.

Thanks to their anatomical design, sloths are adept at hanging upside down. Organs such as the liver, stomach and bowel are attached to their rib cage which prevents them from squashing the animal’s i) __________ and impeding breathing. Their strong j) __________ claws allow them to latch onto branches securely and even to sleep suspended from the trees.

Another design attribute allows three-toed sloths to k) __________ their heads 270 degrees like owls, which may come in handy for keeping an eye out for predators.

Sloths are very cumbersome on the ground as they have little power in their hind legs.  However, they are actually pretty strong swimmers and can even hold their breath underwater for forty minutes!

Sloths may be slow but they are three times as strong as humans. They can lift their whole body upwards using just one arm!

Sloths only come down from trees in order to poop, which they do about once a week. They are extremely l) __________ to predators when they are on the ground and so will even give birth up in the trees!

B) Idioms with SLOW

Complete the idioms with one of the words in brackets.

1.  The government was criticised for being slow off the _________ in helping its citizens affected by the hurricane. They should have acted faster.  (line, mark, step)

2.  Maybe I’m slow on the __________take but I found the plot of the film really confusing at times. Didn’t you? (off, on, up)

3.  The book was slow __________ at first but then it started to get a lot more interesting. (go, going, gone)

4.  Come on, slow__________, hurry up and have your breakfast or you’re going to be late for school. (bus, car, coach)

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Nature Vocabulary and Idioms Worksheet – GENTLE GIRAFFES


Fill the gaps with the following words:

brain   calves   grasp   lethal   pattern   predators   resemblance   saliva   spread   swallow trait   twigs

Each giraffe has a unique a) ____________ of spots just like humans have distinct fingerprints.

The second part of their scientific name ‘giraffa camelopardalis’ originated from their
b) ____________ to a camel crossed with a leopard.

Just the neck of a giraffe is taller than most humans at about 2m. In order for the blood to be pumped all the way up to the c) ____________ , the giraffe has very high blood pressure, double that of humans.

Giraffes can comfortably walk at 15km/h and when they run they can reach speeds of up to 55km/h.

Giraffes have a rather curious way of walking: both legs on one side of the body move forward together and then the legs on the other side. This is a d) ____________ shared by cats and camels.

Since they are such large animals giraffes need a lot of fuel so they spend most of the day eating. They eat around 30kg of food a day – acacia leaves, e) ____________, fruits and flowers.

Like cows they are ruminants – their stomach has four compartments. They chew their food, f) ____________ it and then they regurgitate it (= bring the food back up into the mouth) to chew it again.

Giraffes produce a sticky g) ____________ which helps protect them from any thorns they might swallow when eating.

Despite their size, giraffes only need to drink water every few days which is fortunate as drinking from a watering hole is quite tricky because they have to h) ____________ out their front legs so that they can reach down to the water. Giraffes are also able to get water from the vegetation they eat.

Not only do giraffes have extremely long necks and legs but they also have a seriously long tongue – around 50cm. Their tongue is prehensile which means it is able to dexterously i) ____________ leaves and buds and pull them off.

Giraffes get by on very little sleep, just a couple of hours a day. They tend to sleep standing up as lying down makes them very vulnerable to j) ____________. They take short naps, sometimes lasting only 5 minutes!

Giraffes have a gestation period of about 15 months and they give birth standing up. The k) ____________ are already around 1.8m tall and are able to stand within an hour of being born!

Not known for being aggressive creatures they can defend themselves, however, with an extremely powerful kick which can be l) ____________.

B) Idioms with NECK

Underline the correct word to complete the  expression.

  1. Sorry, I can’t meet you for a coffee, I’m down / up to my neck in housework as we have guests coming to stay tonight.
  2. I need to buy a better pillow. It’s too high and I have a crack / crick in my neck every morning.
  3. Can you pick your toys up off the floor please! I’m going to break / stick  my neck one of these days.
  4. I’m going to be in your neck of the hoods / woods this weekend. Do you fancy meeting up for lunch?
  5. I’m not going to the party if Jeff is going to be there. That guy is a pain / sore in the neck.


A) a) pattern b) resemblance c) brain d) trait e) twigs f) swallow g) saliva h) spread i) grasp j) predators k) calves  l) lethal

B) 1) up to my neck (with a huge amount) 2) a crick in my neck (a stiff or painful neck)  3) break my neck (=hurt myself badly)  4) in your neck of the woods  (in your area, where you live/work) 5) a pain in the neck  (= really annoying)

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