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Chinese pangolin

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Chinese pangolin

Chinese pangolin
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Pholidota
Family: Manidae
Genus: Manis
Species: M. pentadactyla
Binomial name
Manis pentadactyla
Linnaeus, 1758 [2]
Chinese pangolin range

The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is a pangolin found in northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, northern Indochina, through most of Taiwan and southern China (including the islands of Hainan).[3] The Chinese pangolin is one of eight species of pangolin. Although these species are difficult to observe due to their elusive and solitary habits, it is believed that all eight are on the decline. Asian pangolin species, especially the Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin, are the most endangered of all the pangolin species.[4] The IUCN reports that the number of Chinese pangolins has declined greatly over the past fifteen years. Despite being listed as critically endangered by the IUCN and being protected by CITES, poaching continues to be the main cause of their decline in numbers. Deforestation has also contributed to the depletion in the pangolins’ numbers.[5]

Appearance and behavior

The Chinese pangolin has the appearance of a scaly anteater. Its head and body measure around 60 centimetres (24 in) and its tail measures about 18 cm (7.1 in). A mature Chinese pangolin weighs from 2–7 kilograms (4.4–15.4 lb). It has 18 rows of overlapping scales accompanied by hair, a rare combination in mammals. It has a small, narrow mouth and a little, pointed head. It also has claws that grow in as it grows older. The female gives birth to a single offspring at a time.

A newborn pangolin weighs about 93 grams (3.3 oz), its length is about 45 cm (18 in). The Chinese pangolin reproduces in April and May when the weather warms. The young also have scales; however, they remain very soft for at least two days, then harden. Although the young pangolin can walk on its very first day, the mother carries it on her back or tail. If the mother feels threatened, she immediately folds her baby onto her belly with the help of her tail. Male pangolins have been observed allowing the female and baby to share the burrow.

Chinese pangolin skeleton on display at the Museum of Osteology

Chinese pangolins are rather secretive, nocturnal creatures. They move very slowly and are known for their nonaggressive behavior. Their hard scales work as a protective cover from predators, and when they feel threatened, they curl themselves into balls. For further defense, they can climb trees, although this is uncommon.

They mainly eat insects, particularly termites and ants. They dig into ant nests and termite mounds with their large fore claws and extract their prey with their long, sticky tongues.

In Vietnam and Hong Kong, Chinese pangolins are considered a delicacy. They are hunted on a wide scale for human consumption. Factors such as habitat destruction and hunting constantly challenge their survival. Chinese pangolins are now on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, however, since the forests they inhabit are difficult to patrol, it is difficult to prevent people from hunting these animals.


The Chinese pangolin digs long burrows in the ground. They use this to sleep and eat termites.[6]

Habitats include:

  • primary and secondary tropical forests
  • bamboo forests
  • limestone forests
  • broad leaf forests
  • coniferous forests
  • agricultural fields
  • grasslands[7]

"The Critter"

Zoo Leipzig

The Chinese pangolin is probably "The Critter", one of the pets of the Raven FACs at their secret base in Long Tieng during the covert war in Laos. It was described as a foot-long "prehistoric" beast, covered in armor plating with a long tail and a pointed nose, a "cross between a sloth and an armadillo", by the US pilots.

After its accidental death, The Critter's body was preserved in a one-gallon jar filled with alcohol. A picture taken of the preserved animal was sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, as well as to the Natural History department of La Sorbonne in Paris, but no positive reply was forthcoming. For a long time, nobody knew what kind of animal it was until one of the pilots stationed in Laos happened to see the animal on a Laotian postage stamp, part of a stamp series on indigenous animals from Laos, under the name "Panis Auritas".[8]

Dietary needs and eating habits

A study done by the Chinese Journal of Applied and Environmental Biology identified the Chinese Pangolin as a "susceptible species due to its food specialization and stenophagy (only eating several species of ants and termites)”.[9] Due to the pangolin's very specific diet, it can become arduous to provide the appropriate food for them while they're being observed and maintained. Pangolins are typically held in zoo's due to their abilities to feed and preserve the rare animal. However, since the 1970s, "pangolins are now almost unknown to visitors and are exhibited infrequently in zoos", and have "historically been difficult to maintain, with most captive animals dying within a short period after capture". When in their natural habitat, this species lives "on a diet of ants, termites, and various other invertebrates including bee larvae, flies, worms, earthworms, and crickets”. After carefully creating new, more sustainable recipes in zoos's, some of the ingredients that are used have included "egg, meat (ground beef, horse, canned feline diet), evaporated milk products, milk powder, fish protein, orchid leaves, commercial chows, psyllium seed, carrots, yeast, multivitamins, and insects (mixtures of silkworm larvae, earth, ants, termites, meal worms, or crickets)”. A number of zoo's that have kept pangolin's under observation have found that the animals died in a most commonly after a few years, without breeding successfully. Researchers claim this outcome is correlated to the "poor acceptance of captive diets and digestive problems.” [10] This Chinese Pangolin is considered to be high risk in terms of extinction.[9]

Poaching and trafficking

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 2002 prohibited selling pangolins across national borders. Although China has already passed laws to protect the pangolin, it might not be enough to save the species. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) reports that pangolins are the most trafficked and poached mammal.[11] The Chinese pangolin is hunted for its meat, claws, and scales. Pangolin meat, which is considered a delicacy in parts of China and Vietnam, has been reported to sell for as high as US $200 per kilogram (2.2 lb). Pangolin scales and blood are in demand in Asia for their supposed medicinal qualities.[4] Some Chinese believe pangolin scales, made of keratin, can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments, from cancer, to an upset stomach, to asthma. Other pangolin body parts are also used in traditional Chinese medicines. According to one survey composed in 2013, certain Nepalese natives believe pangolin scales are also good luck charms.[12] Each pangolin has approximately 500 g (18 oz) of scales which can be sold for roughly US $350 on the black market.

IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group is seeking to raise 6.7 million so they can begin to implement a pangolin recovery plan. These funds would be used to protect pangolin habitat, raise global awareness, and reduce demand for Chinese and Vietnamese buyers.[13] Even though the pangolins have been protected by legislation since the 1970s and 1980s, people still choose to hunt these endangered animals at an alarming rate. After random inspections on May 28, 2014 at the Kwai Chung cargo port in Hong Kong, officials detained scales from nearly 8.000 pangolins. Just two weeks later, Hong Kong officials seized a second shipment that contained scales from about 5,000 pangolins.[14]

The journal Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment estimated that the remains of about 10,000 pangolins are intercepted each year.[13] Zhao-Min Zhou and Macdonald from Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment claim from their records that 220 living pangolins and the remains of 4,909 dead pangolins were seized in 43 law enforcement actions since 2010.[14]

Indonesian Forestry Ministry director of investigations and forest observation Raffles Panjaitan told the Jakarta Post that in October 2011 his agency had 587 cases of pangolin trafficking since 2006. The estimated value is US $4.3 million worth of pangolins on the illegal market.[14]

In April 2013, a Philippine coast guard inspected a boat where they found 10,000 kg (22,000 lb) of pangolin meat. They also discovered 400 boxes containing thousands of frozen skinned pangolins and scaly anteaters from Indonesia. The Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa city in Palawan province sentenced the boat captain to 12 years in prison and each crew member received up to six to 10 years. Each member of the crew was also fined $100,000.[13]


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ([15] Many of the countries the Chinese Pangolin resides in have already passed legislation to protect them. Below is a list of the different countries' legislation in order from oldest to newest laws:

China has passed much more legislation for pangolin protection than other countries, because the species' population has drastically declined in China over the last few decades. This is the direct result of extreme poaching for pangolin scales and meat. Clearly though, legislation is not enough and alternatives to laws need to be considered. The IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group made a proposal in July 2014 to increase awareness, funding, and research for Pangolin conservation. Some of the plan's highlights include making protocols to monitor pangolin populations, establishing a consumption index of pangolin products, using DNA analysis to determine variation between and within species, and identifying species strongholds to determine best allocation of resources.[16] Furthermore, the conservation plan aims to increase patrol-based monitoring around stronghold populations, increase awareness and education about the severity of the problem, and, most importantly, implement a demand reduction strategy for pangolin meat and scales.[16]

Another alternative to legislation includes offering positive incentives, like monetary payments or control over land's resources, to local communities for their involvement in conservation efforts.[17] However, the incentives would have to be more beneficial to the community than poaching. Therefore, further research is needed to find appropriate incentives for the communities near pangolin strongholds, and governments would need to approve of such incentives. Other researchers have proposed the importance of finding biological substitutes for endangered species used in traditional medicines.[18] DNA barcoding and analysis could be used to determine what common species are genetically similar enough and produce similar effects as the Chinese Pangolin scales. In order to crack down on poaching, the barcoding technique could also be used for accurate detection of species products being imported and exported.

See also


  1. ^ Challender, D., Baillie, J., Ades, G., Kaspal, P., Chan, B., Khatiwada, A., Xu, L., Chin, S., KC, R., Nash, H. & Hsieh, H. (2014). "Manis pentadactyla".  
  2. ^ Linnæus, Carl (1758). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I (in Latin) (10 ed.). Holmiæ: Laurentius Salvius. p. 36. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  3. ^ 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.  
  4. ^ a b "PROJECT PANGOLIN." PROJECT PANGOLIN RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
  5. ^ Pietersen, D., Waterman, C., Hywood, L., Rankin, P. & Soewu, D. 2014. Smutsia temminckii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. . Downloaded on 23 October 2014.
  6. ^ Challender, D., Baillie, J., Ades, G., Kaspal, P., Chan, B., Khatiwada, A., Xu, L., Chin, S., KC, R., Nash, H. & Hsieh, H. 2014. Manis pentadactyla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. Downloaded on 23 October 2014
  7. ^ "EDGE of Existence." EDGE of Existence. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.
  8. ^ Christopher Robbins, The Ravens: Pilots of the Secret War in Laos. Asia Books 2000.
  9. ^ a b Shibao, Wu; Naifa, Liu; Yingmei, Zahng; Guangzhi, MA (2004). "Assesment of Threatened Status of Chinese Pangolin". Chinese Journal of Applied and Environmental Biology. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "History and Dietary Husbandry of Pangolins in Captivity". Zoo Biology 26: 223–230. 2007. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Foley, James A. "Plight of the Pangolin: The Most Trafficked Animal on Earth Needs More Protection." Nature World News RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
  12. ^ Katuwal, Hem Bahadur, et al. "Pangolins Trade, Ethnic Importance and its Conservation in Eastern Nepal." (2013).
  13. ^ a b c "12 Chinese Men Whose Boat Had Frozen Pangolin Meat Convicted Of Poaching In Philippine Park." Canadian Press, The (n.d.): Points of View Reference Center. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
  14. ^ a b c Clifton, Merritt. "Armor Is Not Enough to Protect Pangolins." Animals 247. N.p., 8 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
  15. ^ a b Challender, D., Baillie, J., Ades, G., Kaspal, P., Chan, B., Khatiwada, A., Xu, L., Chin, S., KC, R., Nash, H. & Hsieh, H. 2014. Manis pentadactyla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. Downloaded on 22 October 2014.
  16. ^ a b Challender, DWS, Waterman, C, and Baillie, JEM. 2014. Scaling up pangolin conservation. IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group Conservation Action Plan. Zoological Society of London, London, UK.
  17. ^ Challender, Dan. "Positive Incentives for Conserving Pangolins in Asia and the Challenges to Be Overcome." SULiNews 7 (Dec. 2013): n. pag. IUCN. Web.
  18. ^ Luo, Jiao-yang et al. "A Strategy for Trade Monitoring and Substitution of the Organs of Threatened Animals." Scientific Reports. Nature Publishing Group, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.

External links

  • EDGE of Existence )Chinese pangolin( – Saving the World's most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species
  • ADW entry
  • Jung-Tai Chao. Manis pentadactyla pentadactylaGeneral Status of Formosan Pangolin
  • Cryptozoology - The Critter
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