Chinese Pangolin

Scientific name: Manis pentadactyla

The pangolin, also called scaly anteater, is an elongated, armour-plated insectivore of the order Pholidota. Seven species of pangolins are found across the world, of which, two are found in India, namely Indian pangolin and Chinese pangolin.

The Chinese pangolin is found in the Himalayan foothills in Eastern Nepal, Bhutan, Northern India, North-East Bangladesh and through Southern China. It is adaptable to a wide range of habitats including primary and secondary tropical forests, limestone and bamboo forests, grasslands and agricultural fields. Once known to be found in large numbers, its population is rapidly declining in its range due to habitat loss and rampant poaching for its skin, scales, and meat.

Chinese pangolin is 48 to 58 cm long and weighs between 1.8 to 7 kg. Males and females vary visibly in size and can easily be distinguished as the male is much larger. Its entire body, except the snout, inner limbs and lower stomach is covered by pale or yellowish-brown scales that are made of bone. It uses these scales as armour to defend itself against predators by rolling into a ball when threatened. Mothers also protect their young by curling up around them in a similar manner.

A pangolin’s long claws help it to dig the ground for termites, which is its staple food. It uses its long, thin and sticky tongue, which is around 40 cm long, to pull out the termites from the ground. As it lacks teeth, its meal is ground down in the muscular stomach instead. It’s a solitary and nocturnal creature and largely terrestrial, though it is very agile in climbing trees. Females give birth to a single young and carry it on its back or tail. Males stay with the female till its time to wean the young.

The Chinese pangolin is listed on CITES Appendix II and is protected by national or sub-national legislation across its range. In India, it has been given the highest level of protection as it is included in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. WWF-India works in the Khangchendzonga landscape, which includes Sikkim where this species is found, to maintain the biodiversity and habitat of the landscape.

  1. Menon,V, A Field Guide to Indian Mammals, 2003, Dorling Kindersley (India) Pvt. Ltd.
  2. Duckworth, J.W., Steinmitz, R., Pattanavibool, A., Than Zaw, Do Tuoc & Newton, P. 2008. Manis pentadactyla. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <>. Downloaded on 08 November 2010.
© Smrithi Rumdali Rai, Riverdale Academy
Chinese pangolin curled up to protect itself from predators
© Smrithi Rumdali Rai, Riverdale Academy
© Ameen Ahmed/WWF-India
River Teesta valley in Sikkim is a home to Chinese Pangolin
© Ameen Ahmed/WWF-India
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