Endangered pangolins are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales and they use those scales to protect themselves from predators in the wild. If under threat, a pangolin will immediately curl into a tight ball and will use their sharp-scaled tails to defend themselves.
In this case, an added layer of protection; Massai shields, to defend against accusations that pangolins are responsible for the zootonic transmission of the coronavirus from bats to humans. This theory has since been debunked.
Embellishments on the shields resemble the pangolin’s scales leaving no doubt that Massai ornamentation is influenced by the fauna surrounding them.