Chinese pangolin

Manis pentadactyla

SUBFAMILY

Maninae

TAXONOMY

Manis pentadactyla Linnaeus, 1758, Taiwan. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Pangolin de Chine; Spanish: Pangolin chino. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Chinese pangolins have a head and body length of 21-32 in (50-80 cm), a tail length of 10-16 in (26-40 cm), and a weight of 4-20 lb (2-9 kg). They have about 18 rows of overlapping scales. The yellow-brown scales are bony, up to 2 in (5 cm) across, and encompass all of the body (including the tail) except for its snout, cheeks, throat, inner limbs, and belly. They have hairs at the base of the body scales. Their limbs are slender with comparatively long and sharp claws, an important aid in climbing. Chinese pangolins have a small, pointed head, a very round body, and a narrow mouth. The nose is fleshy and has nostrils at the end, and the thin tongue, as long as 16 in (40 cm), scoops up ants and termites. Their small, external ears are better developed than are those of the other pangolins. The strongly prehensile tail and long claws make this pangolin very agile in trees and a powerful bur-rower.

DISTRIBUTION

Westward through Nepal, Assam and Sikkim (in northeastern India), eastern Himalayas, Myanmar, northern Thailand and Indochina, southern China, Taiwan, and Hainan.

Chinese Pangolin India

I Manis javanica I Manis pentadactyla I Manis crassicaudata

HABITAT

They inhabit subtropical and deciduous forests and grasslands. Burrows are often built adjacent to termite nests and extend further below the surface during the cold winter months. During the summer months they sometimes occupy burrows for just a few days. It is unclear whether the winter burrow is maintained during warmer months. Although predominantly a terrestrial species, it has been observed in the jungle canopy up to 20 ft (6 m) above the ground.

BEHAVIOR

Chinese pangolins are extremely shy, and are very agile tree climbers. They are classified as arboreal and often hang by the tip of their tail. Chinese pangolins generally are not aggressive, but males can fight over mating rights. They dig tunnels up to 9 ft (3 m) long (sometimes in as little as 3-5 minutes) that terminates in a den. The den is closed off while they are inside. They swim rapidly with undulating movements. When rolled into a ball, no soft areas are exposed.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

They feed primarily on the ground, mostly digging for termites and ants with its strongly clawed feet. Their range corresponds to those of its preferred subterranean termite species Coptotermes formosanus and Cyclotermes formosanus. They forage through a surrounding area that is about 165-330 ft (50-100 m) in circumference, and then move onto another area when food becomes scarce.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Males fight violently over females. Mating occurs during a 3-5 day period in late summer or early autumn. Young are born in a winter burrow, and emerge with the mother in the spring. The gestation period is unknown, but in Nepal, Chinese pangolins were found to reproduce during April and May. Females give birth to 1-2 young at a time. Birth weight and head-and-body length are generally unknown but have been reported to be about 1 lb (0.5 kg) and about 18 in (45 cm) respectively. Scales in young animals are purplish brown. When a baby Chinese pangolin nurses, the mother lies on her back or side. While resting, she holds the baby pressed to her abdomen. Young are able to walk at birth, but are carried on the mother's tail or back. When the mother is feeding, the offspring is left alone. Weaning, sexual maturity, and life span are unknown. Males have been observed to exhibit good parental instincts and share a burrow with the female and young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Near Threatened. Their main enemies are humans, large cats (especially leopards, lions, and tigers), hyenas, and pythons. They live in many protected forests throughout their range. Land development often threatens unprotected habitats.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Chinese pangolins are hunted for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in many areas such as Vietnam and Hong Kong. ♦

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