Pangolins: Eating Habits, Species, Indian Pangolin, Conservation Issue, Protection Status (Download PDF)

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Pangolins

  • It is the only mammal fully covered in scales.
  • Large overlapping scales on its body acting as armour.
  • Its scientific name is Pholidota and belongs to Manidae family.
  • Under threat a pangolin will immediately curl into a tight ball and will use their sharp-scaled tails to defend themselves.
  • Nocturnal and rests in deep burrows during the day.
  • It is also the most llegally traded vertebrate within its class (Mammalia) as per the reports of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) .
Pangolin Species

Eating Habits

  • No teeth.
  • Use their sticky tongues.
  • Eat ants, termites and larvae.
  • Often known as “the scaly anteater.”

Species of Pangolin

  • The Chinese pangolin
  • Indian pangolin
  • Sunda pangolin
  • Philippine pangolin
  • White-bellied pangolin
  • Black-bellied pangolin
  • Giant pangolin
  • Temminck՚s pangolin

Species Found in India

  • Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)
  • Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata)

Indian Pangolin

  • A large anteater covered dorsally by 11 - 13 rows of scales.
  • The Indian pangolin is solitary, mostly nocturnal, and terrestrial.
  • They are widely distributed in India, except the arid region, high Himalayas and the North-East.
  • Adult male is about one-third larger than the female.
  • Presence of a terminal scale on the ventral side of the tail.
  • The terminal scale present on the ventral side of the tail is absent in the Chinese Pangolin.
  • Sticky tongue, which is longer than its body.
  • Adapted for reaching and lapping up insects in deep crevices.
  • The powerful forelimbs armed with three disproportionately long claws helps in opening the termite mounds.
  • Presence of Presence of blunt nails on the five toes.
  • Does not climb trees unlike its African counterpart.

Habitats

  • Various forest types grasslands and secondary forests.
  • Sri Lankan rainforest and plains to middle hill levels.
  • Well adapted to dry regions with tolerance to dry areas.
  • Prefers more barren, hilly regions along with soft and semi-sandy soil conditions suitable for digging burrows.
  • Pangolin burrows are of two types namely feeding and living burrows.
  • Grasses, bare grounds, bases of trees, shrubs, roots, leaf litter, fallen logs and elephant feces are present in the habitats promote an abundance of ants and termites.

Feeding Burrows

  • Smaller than living burrows.
  • Their sizes vary depending on the abundance of prey.
  • Created more frequently during the spring.

Living Burrows

  • Wider, deeper, and more circular.
  • Occupied for a longer time than feeding burrows.
  • Mainly used to sleep and rest during the day.

Illicit Trade and Conservation Issues

  • Hunting and poaching for local consumptive use.
  • Heavily exploited for its flesh, scales, and skin.
  • Their meat is considered a delicacy.
  • International trade for its meat and scales in East and South East Asian countries.
  • Scales are believed to be able to treat conditions such as breast milk stoppage, rheumatoid arthritis, sores and boils.
  • China and Vietnam are the major traders of Pangolins.
  • Illicit international trade extends to India, Pakistan and Myanmar as well.
  • Over 3,000 pangolins have been hunted between 2009 and 2013 as per the Seizure reports.
  • They are protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) .
Pangolin Trade

Vulnerable Pangolins

  • Ground pangolin
  • Giant pangolin
  • White-bellied
  • Black-bellied

Critically Endangered Pangolins

  • Chinese Pangolin
  • Indian Pangolin
  • Sunda Pangolin
  • Philippine Pangolins

China՚s Role

  • World՚s largest consumer of pangolin parts.
  • Scales are sued for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) .
  • There has been an influx of both legally imported and smuggled pangolin scales into China from Africa and Southeast Asia.
  • As per the researchers, China՚s domestic medicine market needs 100,000 pangolins every year.
  • From 2010 - 2018, more than 40 tonnes of live pangolins, plus frozen bodies and scales were seized.
  • The scales are in huge demand in China as they are used in traditional medicines.
  • Also, recently China had found that Pangolin scales can be used to infect people with Corona Virus.

World Pangolin Day 2020

  • World Pangolin Day is celebrated every year on the third Saturday of the February month.
  • Recently the 9th World Pangolin Day was celebrated on 15th Feb 2020.
  • With the declining numbers of Pangolins, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department has radio-tagged Indian Pangolins for the first time to learn their ecology.
  • The forest department in coordination with the NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust are engaged in working towards the protection of the Pangolins.
  • In India they are protected under Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

- Published/Last Modified on: April 8, 2020

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