Indian pangolin

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Indian pangolin[1]
Scaly ant eater by Dushy Ranetunge 2.jpg
Specimen in Sri Lanka
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Pholidota
Family: Manidae
Genus: Manis
Species: M. crassicaudata
Binomial name
Manis crassicaudata
Gray, 1827
Manis crassicaudata range.png

The Indian pangolin, thick-tailed pangolin, or scaly anteater (Manis crassicaudata) is a pangolin found in the plains and hills of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and some parts of Pakistan. It is not common anywhere in its range. Like other pangolins, it has large, overlapping scales on its body which act as armour. It can also curl itself into a ball as self-defence against predators such as the tiger. The colour of its scales varies depending on the colour of the earth in its surroundings.[3] It is an insectivore that feeds on ants and termites, digging them out of mounds and logs using its long claws, which are as long as its fore limbs. It is nocturnal and rests in deep burrows during the day.

It is hunted for its meat, which is considered tasty, and for making medicinal oil.[4]

In Kerala, it is known as eenampechi. In Sinhala, it is called kaballewa and in Tamil azhungu or alangu. In Oriya, it is called bajrakapta.[5]


Specimen in Gujarat

Manis crassicaudata has a head-body length of 51–75 cm, a tail length of 33–47 cm and a weight of 10–16 kg. Females have one pair of mammae, and are smaller than the males. The head of this animal is cone-shaped and the muzzle is long. The nose pad colour is similar to, or slightly darker than, the pinkish-brown skin. Its eyes are small and the irises are dark. The massive, scaled armour of this animal, which covers its upper face and its whole body, does not cover the belly and inner side of the legs. M. crassicaudata has 160-200 scales in total (of which 40-46% are located on the tail) and the large scales can reach 6.5–7 cm long, 8.5 cm wide, and weigh 7-10 grams; the skin and scales constitute about one-fourth to one-third of the total body mass of this species.


The Indian pangolin has been recorded from various forest types, including Sri Lankan rainforest and plains to middle hill levels. The animal can also be found in grasslands and secondary forests which have been affected by humans. It can only live where an abundant source of termites, which are its primary food source, are found. This pangolin species may also sometimes reach high elevations; sightings at 1100 m and 2300 m have been reported in Sri Lanka and the Nilgiris in India, respectively. This species is believed to have a tolerance to dry areas, because it has been seen in arid thorn forests in Pakistan.



The Indian pangolin is almost entirely insectivorous. Its diet includes beetles, cockroaches, termites, and possibly worms. This pangolin feeds on eggs, larvae, and bugs, but eggs are the preferred choice. As it is nocturnal, it uses its sense of smell when digging to reach nests or mounds and when foraging. When these pangolins forage, they mostly do it on the ground, but, as seen in the rainforest canopy of Sri Lanka, arboreal ants may be preyed upon. They tear apart and dig into mounds by using their three centre claws on their fore feet. The animal uses its hind feet to throw loose soil backwards. When digging deep into or under mounds, they move out backwards to expel soil with their fore feet. When feeding, the pangolin's rostral part of the tongue is quickly inserted and withdrawn to capture prey. This movement is also used for drinking.


The breeding details of M. crassicaudata are very poorly known. During the animal's mating period, females and males may share the same burrow and show some diurnal activities. Males have testes in a fold of the skin located in their groin areas. The female's embryo develops in one of the uterine horns. The gestation period lasts 65–70 days; the placenta is diffuse and not deciduate. Usually, a single young is born, but twins have been reported in this species. The young weigh 235-400 g at birth and they measure roughly 30 cm. The newborn animals have open eyes, and soft scales with protruding hairs between them. The mother pangolin carries her young on her tail. When the mother and young are disturbed, the young pangolin is held against its mother's belly and protected by the mother's tail.


Defending itself from Asiatic lions

Manis crassicaudata is solitary, mostly nocturnal, and terrestrial. In habitats such as Sri Lankan rainforests, they may be more arboreal, using their claws and prehensile tails as supports to readjust fore legs as they climb. These pangolins dig their own burrows in the ground, at depths of 1.5–6 m; these are frequently under large rocks and the entrance is often hidden with soil. When in danger, they roll up into balls, their large tails are pressed tightly against their faces and bellies to help protect themselves. Longevity of this animal in captivity can exceed 19 years.

These pangolins are not often observed in the wild due to their solitary, secretive, and nocturnal nature. A loud emission of a hissing sound has been reported when they are frightened or angry. M. crassicaudata possesses anal glands which emit a strong and musky-smelling yellow fluid, possibly used for marking or defense.

Conservation status[edit]

M. crassicaudata is suspected to be in significant decline due to hunting for traditional medicine and food. Although these pangolins are protected by national legislation in many protected areas throughout their range, they are heavily exploited for their meat and their supposed magical or medicinal properties. The scales are used as an aphrodisiac, or made into rings or charms. The skins are used to manufacture leather goods, including boots and shoes. Although this pangolin is mainly consumed locally, it may soon be at risk to international trade when it becomes the more available option. The two other Asian species of pangolins, Manis javanica and Manis pentadactyla, are declining due to the market for them in Chinese traditional medicine.


  1. ^ Schlitter, D. A. (2005). "Order Pholidota". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 530. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Pangolin Specialist Group (1996). Manis crassicaudata. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006.
  3. ^ ”Pangolins And Porcupines” by Jayantha Jayawardene, ”Daily News”, 21 August 2006. (Retrieved on 4-6-2011).
  4. ^ ”Pangolin Or Scaly Ant Eater (Manis carssicaudata)” by Dr. Susan Sharma. (Retrieved on 4-6-2011).
  5. ^ Prater, S. H. 1971. The Book of Indian Animals (Third Edition). Bombay, India: Bombay Natural History Society. ISBN 0195621697