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
E. Geoffroy, 1803
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 Bhutan. 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 Telugu it is called polusu pandi or nela chepa.In Kerala, it is known as eenampechi. In Tamil it is called azhungu or alangu. In Oriya, it is called bajrakapta. In Sinhala, it is called kaballewa.[5] In Kannada it is called "chippu handi".


Specimen in Gujarat

The Indian pangolin is a solitary, shy, slow mover, nocturnal mammal.[6] It is about 84–122 cm long from head to tail, the tail usually being 33–47 cm long, and weighs 10–16 kg. Females are generally smaller than the males and have one pair of mammae. The pangolin possesses a cone-shaped head with small, dark eyes, and a long muzzle with a nose pad similar in color, or darker than, its pinkish-brown skin. It has powerful limbs, tipped with sharp, clawed digits.[6] It also has a long, sticky tongue, made to catch ants and termites, as it is almost exclusively insectivorous.[6] The pangolin has no teeth, but has strong stomach muscles to aid in the extra digestion needed.[6] The most noticeable characteristic of the pangolin is its massive, scaled armour, which covers its upper face and its whole body, does not cover the belly and inner side of the legs. These protective cales are rigid and made of keratin.[7] It has 160-200 scales in total, and about 40-46% of these scales are located on the tail. These scales, for which they are hunted, can reach 6.5–7 cm long, 8.5 cm wide, and weigh 7-10 grams. The skin and scales make up 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 be found in grasslands and secondary forests, and is well adapted to desert regions[8] as it is believed to have a tolerance to dry areas, but prefers more barren, hilly regions.[8] It is mainly distributed throughout India, Pakistan, and South Asia and locally distributed in Pakistan, occurring in Sialkot, Jehlum, Gujrat, districts northwest of Punjab, Kohat, Attock, Khyber, Sidh, and Baluchistan.[8] This pangolin species may also sometimes reach high elevations, and has been sighted in Sri Lanka at 1100 meters and the Nilgiris in India at 2300 meters. The pangolin makes its home in regions with preferable ecological features suitable for digging their burrows, such as soft and semi-sandy soil.[8]

Pangolin burrows fall into one of two categories: feeding and living burrows. Feeding burrows are smaller than living burrows (though their sizes vary depending on the abundance of prey) and are created more frequently during the spring, when there is a greater availability of prey. Living burrows are wider, deeper, and more circular, and are occupied for a longer time than feeding burrows are, as they are mainly used to sleep and rest during the day. After a few months, the pangolin abandons the burrow, and forms a new one close to the availability of prey. However, it is not uncommon for the pangolin to shift back to the old burrow.[6]

Unlike its African counterpart, the Indian pangolin does not reside in trees, but it does incorporate trees, herbs, and shrubs into its habitat because it is easier to dig burrows around them. In order to accommodate its diet, the pangolin will include grasses, bare grounds, bases of trees, shrubs, roots, leaf litter, fallen logs and elephant feces in the feeding sites of its habitat.[8]



The Indian pangolin is almost entirely insectivorous. Its diet includes beetles, cockroaches, termites, and possibly worms, but mainly ants and termites.[6] This pangolin feeds on eggs, larvae, and bugs, but eggs are the preferred choice. As the pangolin consumes insects, other matter such as plant matter, stones, sand, and clay are consumed as well and digested normally.[6] In the Potohar region of the Punjab providence, majority of the diet consisted of 2 types of ants, Camponotus confuci and Camponotus compressus.[9] Other matter such as stones help with grinding and churning the food as pangolins lack teeth.[6] They have strong stomach muscles to aid in the extra digestion needed.[6] 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 forefeet. 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 forefeet. 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.

According to the research done by Rajesh Kumar Mohapatra & Sudarsan Panda, The Indian Pangolin mostly are most active out of their burrows between 2000 hr and 2100 hrs when in captivity. Most of their time was spent walking, pacing, digging and coiling up into a ball when they were above ground. Other than that, they eat their food, drank and bathe in that order of activity.[10]

Human Impact[edit]

Over the past 20 years the Indian pangolin has become more in demand.[11] This is because of how its skin or scales can be used as clothing and the rest of the body but mainly the fat can be used for medicines which are more popular in China. The people who are mainly killing them are nomads and trained local hunters.[12] The are the most heavily trafficked CITES-protected mammal because of the scales which can make bullet proof vest.[13] With the high demand for these creatures they are leaning on the side of extinctions because they only have one offspring a year.

Conservation status[edit]

The pangolin faces a high risk of extinction, and as of now, the population is expected to keep declining.[8] They are extremely useful as they feed on termites, a serious threat to agricultural crops and buildings[8] and although they are protected by national legislation in many protected areas throughout their range, they are heavily exploited for their flesh, scales, and skin.[8] Various parts of the pangolin are important and valuable sources of food and medicine.[6] 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. ^ Baillie, J., Challender, D., Kaspal, P., Khatiwada, A., Mohapatra, R. & Nash, H. (2014). "Manis crassicaudata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  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
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mahmood, Jabeen, Hussain, Kayani (2013). "Plant Species Association, Burrow Characteristics and the Diet of the Indian Pangolin". Pakistan Journal of Zoology 45 (6): 1533–1539. 
  7. ^ Mahmood, Hussain, Irshad, Akrim, Nadeem (2012). "Illegal Mass Killing of Indian Pangolin". Pakistan Journal of Zoology 44 (5): 1457–1461. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Mahmood, Irshad, Hussain (2014). "Habitat preference and population estimates of Indian pangolin". Russian Journal of Ecology 45 (1): 70–75. 
  9. ^ Mahmood, Tariq, Khalida Jabeen, Iftikhar Hussain, and Amjad Rashid Kayani. "Plant Species Association, Burrow Characteristics and the Diet of the Indian Pangolin, Manis Crassicaudata, in the Potohar Plateau, Pakistan." PAKISTAN JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY 45.6 (2013): 1533-539. Print.
  10. ^ Mohapatra, Rajesh Kumar, and Sudarsan Panda. "Behavioural Sampling Techniques and Activity Pattern of Indian Pangolin Manis Crassicaudata (Mammalia: Manidae) in Captivity." Journal of Threatened Taxa (2013): 5247-255. Print.
  11. ^ Mahmood, Tariq; Hussain, Riaz; Irshad, Nausheen; Akrim, Faraz; Nadeem, Muhammad Sajid (SEP-OCT 2012). "Illegal Mass Killing of Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in Potohar Region, Pakistan". PAKISTAN JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY 44 (5): 1457.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Mahmood, Tariq; Hussain, Riaz; Irshad, Nausheen; Akrim, Faraz; Nadeem, Muhammad Sajid (SEP-OCT 2012). "Illegal Mass Killing of Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in Potohar Region, Pakistan". PAKISTAN JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY 44 (5): 1458.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Zhou, Zhao-Min; Zhou, Youbing; Newman, Chris; Macdonald, David W (Mar 2014). "Scaling up pangolin protection in China". FRONTIERS IN ECOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 12 (2): 97. doi:10.1890/14.WB.001.