Species in Focus


In Chinese myth they travel everywhere in a great underground network and their Cantonese name “Chun-shua-cap” means the creature that bores through the mountain. Pangolins are unique among mammals in having large keratin scales covering their body. When threatened by predators, pangolins roll into a ball, presenting their hard scales to the enemy. Pangolins lack teeth and feed entirely on ants and termites; their extremely long and sticky tongue which extends into the abdomen is an adaptation for this purpose. Due to their scales and ant-eating habits, Pangolins are popularly called 'scaly anteaters'.

 There are two species of Pangolins found in India, the Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata and Chinese Pangolin Manis pentadactyla.The Indian Pangolin occurs sporadically throughout the plains and the Himalayan foothills to southern India. In the north-east it is replaced by the Chinese Pangolin, a species whose range extends to South-East Asia. Both the species are listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. IUCN lists the Indian Pangolin as 'Near Threatened’ and the Chinese Pangolin as 'Endangered'.
Both the species are on CITES Appendix II (but currently with zero export quotas for wild-sourced specimens).

Although pangolins are traded locally throughout India, the main threat to their survival comes from the high demand from international markets in China and Southeast Asia both for their flesh, which is considered a delicacy and a 'tonic food' for its alleged medicinal properties, and for their scales. Currently no international trade in Asian pangolin species is permitted under CITES.

Until recently, it appears that most illegal pangolin trade was focused on Southeast Asia, but there now appears to be a growing international trade from India too, with traders targeting areas as far as the interior peninsular region. Netting, trapping, snaring and shooting are common methods of poaching. Pangolins are also smoked out from their nests by people who capture them for meat. Owing to their odd appearance, many people are rather indifferent towards the fate of pangolins too.

 This threat from trade, coupled with deforestation, has led to a large decrease in the numbers of pangolins.
© Dr. Brij Kishore Gupta, Central Zoo Authority of India
Indian Pangolin
© Dr. Brij Kishore Gupta, Central Zoo Authority of India
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