The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) appears like a scaly anteater and is found in northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, possibly Bangladesh, across Myanmar to northern Indochina, through most of Taiwan and southern China, including the islands of Hainan. From head to body, it measures around 60 cm (24 in) and its tail measures about 18 cm (7 inches). A mature Chinese pangolin weighs about 2.4 kg (82.7 oz). A newborn pangolin weighs about 93 g (3.3 oz). 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. Its nose is plump, with nostrils at its end. This is a bronze-colored animal with a round body equipped with extremely sharp claws.
The species has been recorded in northeastern India from Sikkim eastward (Tikader 1983). The species occurs in eastern Nepal and Bhutan at the foothills of the Himalayas, apparently confined to elevations below approximately 1,500 m in Nepal (Frick 1968; Mitchell 1975).
The species has been recorded in north and central Lao PDR, however, there are too few locality records to determine the geographic and altitudinal range of the species in the country with any accuracy (Duckworth et al. 1999; Timmins and Evans 1996).
The species occurs throughout southeast China from the southern border as far north as Changjiang (the Yangtze River), including on the island of Chusan at the mouth of the Changjiang (Allen and Coolidge 1940). This species is distributed widely in China in the provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, and Fujian, and in the Autonomous Regions of Hainan Island, Guangxi Zhuang, and Tibet (Zhang et al. 1997). It is recorded in several sites in central and northeast New Territories, as well as on Hong Kong (Lantau Island), although not on the smaller outlying islands (Reels 1996).
On Taiwan, the species occurs on the periphery of the Central Mountain Range, the Western Foothill Range, the Taoyuan Tableland, the Ouluanpi Tableland, the East Coast Mountain Range, the Tatun Volcano Group, Taipei Basin, Puli Basin, and the Pingtun Plain (Chao Jung-Tai 1989; Chao Jung-Tai et al. 2005). The upper limit of occurrence is around 2,000 m asl (Chao Jung-Tai 1989).
The species is probably widespread in northern Myanmar, although there are few records and the exact distribution is not well known (Salter 1983; Corbet and Hill 1992; J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2006).
The only records of the species in Thailand are from: Doi Inthanon (formerly Doi Angka) in Changwat, Chiang Mai (northern Thailand), sometime in 1937 and 1939 (Allen and Coolidge 1940); Doi Sutep, Chiangmai (northern Thailand) in 1901; and Mukdaharn in northeastern Thailand.
All records of the species in Viet Nam are from the northern half of the country, as far south as Quang Tri Province, up to 1,000 m asl (Bourret 1942; Peenen et al. 1969; Do Tuoc pers. comm. 2006; P. Newton pers. comm.).
Manis pentadactyla, or the Chinese pangolin, ranges westward through Nepal, Assam, and eastern Himalaya, Burma, and China. The Chinese pangolin has been reported in Ramechap, Pannauti, Soondarijal, Barabisse, and Baglung.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
The Chinese pangolin has been referred to as the scaly anteater because that is what it resembles. It measures around 60 cm from head to body with an 18 cm tail. Sexual dimorphism is present in this species.
Manis pentadactyla has about 18 rows of overlapping scales. The scales are accompanied by hairs, an unusual combination in mammals.
Chinese pangolins have a small pointed head and a narrow mouth. The nose is fleshy and has nostrils at the end. This bronze colored animal has a very round body. The forefeet and hind feet are equipped with sharp claws.
Average mass: 2350 g.
Average basal metabolic rate: 3.727 W.
Habitat and Ecology
This species is solitary, nocturnal (sometimes crepuscular), and largely terrestrial although it is fully capable of climbing trees and, like other pangolins, swims well (Heath and Vanderlip 1988; Chao Jung-Tai 1989). In addition, little is known of the species? life history, although in China and Taiwan, young (normally one, occasionally two) are reportedly born in spring (Allen and Coolidge 1940; Chao Jung-Tai 1989). Hunters in Viet Nam reported that they never find this species in trees, and so it seems likely that it is far more terrestrial than the more arboreal Manis javanica (P. Newton pers. comm.).
The diet consists of ants and termites (Heath and Vanderlip 1988). It has been noted that in China, there appears to be a close correlation between the its distribution and the distribution of two termite species (Coptotermes formosanus and Termes (Cyclotermes) formosanus) that are assumed to form a major component of its diet (Allen and Coolidge 1940).
Chinese pangolins inhabit subtropical and deciduous forests. In central Nepal these areas are on rolling hills where there are numerous, large termite mounds.
Manis pentadactyla is a burrowing species. They use their strong, clawed forefeet to dig burrows up to 8 ft deep. This can be done in three to five minutes. Once the pangolin is inside, it blocks the entrance. In some cases, they have been observed occupying the burrow of another animal.
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
In Nepal, Chinese pangolins reproduce during April and May. A single young is born measuring about 45 cm and weighing about 1 lb. The young come equipped with scales, although they are soft and flexible for the first two days of life. Although they are able to walk at birth, young pangolins are carried on their mother's tail or back. If the mother is threatend, she folds her offspring under her body with her tail. Male pangolins have been observed to exhibit remarkable parental instincts and share a burrow with the female and young.
Average birth mass: 92.5 g.
Average number of offspring: 1.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/near threatened
Manis pentadactyla live in many protected forests throughout their range. The biggest conservation problem that they face is being hunted for meat, and habitat destruction. Many of the protected parks that they inhabit cannot be patrolled and poachers hunt at will with little chance of being caught. Land development threatens the areas that are not protected.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
A 1993 survey conducted in the Royal Nagarjung Forest in Kathmandu, Nepal, determined that there was a healthy population there, however, the general trend elsewhere in Nepal was dramatically declining, due to increased access to hunting areas and loss of habitat (Gurung 1996).
This species was reported in the 1980s as common in the undisturbed hill forests of Arunachal Pradesh, however, little is known about the total population in India (Tikader 1983; Zoological Survey of India 1994).
Reports from the late 1980s and early 1990s suggest that the total population of this species in Taiwan was decreasing due to poaching and habitat destruction (Chao Jung-Tai 1989; Chao Jung-Tai et al. 2005).
The species is very rare in Viet Nam (Do Tuoc pers. comm. 2006). There is a ?confirmed record? we found is for Ba Na National Park, which straddles the provinces of Quang Nam and Da Nang (Frontier Viet Nam, 1994). Hunters in Viet Nam reported that they still find Manis pentadactyla in Cuc Phuong National Park (in Quang Binh province), in Khe Net Nature Reserve, and in Ke Go Nature Reserve (Ha Tinh province) (P. Newton pers. comm.). However, all hunters reported that the species is extremely rare, and that populations have declined dramatically in the last two decades (P. Newton pers. comm.). In 2007, P. Newton (pers. comm.) found recent (i.e., less than 1 month old) signs of pangolin activity (recently-dug burrows) in Cuc Phuong National Park ? these were almost certainly those of Manis pentadactyla, as the park is well outside of the range of Manis javanica. In Khe Net and Ke Go, hunters reported that numbers of Manis pentadactyla were lower than those of Manis javanica, probably because the former is easier to hunt. If this is the case, then in places where both species occur, populations of Manis pentadactyla are likely to be more heavily depleted.
The species has been so heavily hunted in Lao PDR that field sightings are exceptionally rare, and the only recent field sightings (during 1994-1995) was of an individual in Nam Theun Extension PNBCA (Proposed National Biodiversity Conservation Area) and one seen in a village in Nakai-Nam Theun NBCA during the same period (Duckworth et al. 1999). Manis pentadactyla is less often recorded in trade in Lao PDR than Manis javanica, perhaps due to its lower abundance in the wild (WCMC et al. 1999).
Of particular significance is that Manis pentadactyla is reported to be an easier species to locate and hunt in the wild (P. Newton pers. comm.). This is because it is more terrestrial, and is thus: a) easier to track their scent using specialised hunting dogs (the scent of Manis javanica is often lost at points at which the animal climbed a tree); and b) has conspicuous soil burrows that are more easily accessed than the tree hollows favoured by Manis javanica (P. Newton pers. comm.). For these reasons, the hunting threat to Manis pentadactyla is perhaps even greater than that to Manis javanica (P. Newton pers. comm.).
Every hunter interviewed in Viet Nam (N = 84) reported that they now sell all pangolins that they catch (P. Newton pers. comm.). Prices are so high that local, subsistence use of pangolins for either meat or their scales has completely halted in favour or selling to the national/international trade (P. Newton pers. comm.). The only occasions on which a hunter might eat a pangolin is if it is already dead when they retrieve it from a trap ? then they would use the meat and sell the scales (P. Newton pers. comm.). The price per kg of pangolin (in Viet Nam, at least) has escalated rapidly (at a rate greater than that of annual inflation) since the commercial trade in wild pangolins began to expand in about 1990 (P. Newton pers. comm.). Prices paid to hunters now exceed US$95 per kg (Viet Nam, P. Newton pers. comm.).
In Bangladesh, all pangolins are legally protected.
On Taiwan, all Manis species have been protected since August 1990 under the 1989 Wildlife Conservation Law.
This species is listed as a Class II protected species in China?s Wild Animal Protection Law (1989), and also as a Class II protected species in China in the Regulations on the Conservation and Management of Wild Resources of Medicinal Plants and Animals (1987).
In Thailand, all Manis species are classified as Protected Wild Animals under the 1992 Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act B.E. 2535.
In India, this species is completely protected, as it is included in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
Hunting of this species is prohibited in Nepal (Gaski and Hemley 1991).
The legal status of pangolins in Lao PDR is unclear, as a result of internal contradictions in Lao PDR laws applicable to wildlife and wildlife trading. However, Provincial and District Agricultural and Forestry Offices in Lao PDR have been confiscating large numbers of pangolins, so there is evidently a perceived legal basis for doing so (WCMC et al. 1999).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
The Chinese pangolin is considered a delicacy in many areas such as Vietnam and Hong Kong. They are hunted mainly for their meat.
The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is a pangolin found in northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, possibly Bangladesh, across Myanmar to northern Indochina, through most of Taiwan and southern China, including the islands of Hainan.
The Chinese pangolin can dig up to 8 ft (2.5 m) deep in the ground with its strong and clawed fore feet, in four to five minutes. Once it enters the burrow, it blocks the opening. Some Chinese pangolins occupy burrows of other animals, as well. Its body mass is about 3.6 kg (8.0 lbs).
The Chinese pangolin appears like a scaly anteater. From head to body, it measures around 60 cm (24 in) and its tail measures about 18 cm (7 in). A mature Chinese pangolin weighs about 2.4 kg (82.7 oz). A newborn pangolin weighs about 93 g (3.3 oz). 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. Its nose is plump, with nostrils at its end. This is a bronze-colored animal, with a round body equipped with extremely sharp claws.
The Chinese pangolin found in Nepal reproduces in April and May when the weather is a bit warm. The female gives birth to a single young at a time, and it weighs about 1 lb (450 g) and its length is about 45 cm (18 in). The young also has scales which remain very soft for two days. 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 noticed to show extraordinary parental instinct and allow the female and baby to share the burrow.
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 endangered, they curl themselves into balls. Chinese pangolins are mainly terrestrial animals, but are observed in forests up to about 20 feet above the ground.
They mainly eat insects, such as termites and ants. Their sharp claws help them in digging up the ants and termite mounds and with the help of their sticky, long (25-cm) tongues, they can draw their prey into their mouths.
In Vietnam and Hong Kong, Chinese pangolins are considered a delicacy, and they are hunted on a large scale only for this purpose. Now, Chinese pangolins are being protected in the forests where they are generally found. Factors such as habitat destruction and hunting constantly challenge their survival. Since the forests they inhabit are difficult to patrol, hunters can hunt these animals without being caught.
In Hong Kong, it is a protected species under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap 170. The IUCN stated, "The populations have been greatly reduced in the last 15 years (generation length estimated at 5 years), and decline suspected to continue over the next 15 years, at a rate of over 50%. The species is thus listed as Endangered A2d+3d+4d." 
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".
- Duckworth, J.W., Steinmitz, R., Anak Pattanavibool, Than Zaw, Do Tuoc & Newton, P. (2008). Manis pentadactyla. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
- 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.
- 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. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- IUCN Red List - Manis pentadactyla
- Christopher Robbins, The Ravens: Pilots of the Secret War in Laos. Asia Books 2000.