Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The three-cusped pangolin is a nocturnal species, which spends its days sheltering in tree hollows (2), curled up amongst epiphytes, or in the forked branch of a tree (4). At night, it departs from its shelter and commences its search for food. Occasionally, the three-cusped pangolin may also descend to the ground, where it walks on all fours or moves about balanced just on its hindlimbs (2). Like all pangolins, this species specialises in feeding on ants and termites (4), although other invertebrates may also be eaten (1), and thus it searches for hanging ant and termite nests, or attacks a column of insects as they march around a tree (4), detecting their prey primarily by scent (5). The clawed forefeet are proficient in tearing apart nests, and insects stick to its incredibly long tongue as it darts in and out of the passageways (5). The three-cusped pangolin has no teeth, so prey is swallowed whole and ground up in the muscular stomach (5). Pangolins are generally solitary animals, only rarely seen in pairs. Typically, a single young is born in winter (5), after a gestation period of about 150 days (1). The newborn, whose scales do not harden until the second day of life, is then carried on the female's back or tail (5). All pangolins are also timid creatures, whose most efficient defence mechanism is to curl up into a tight ball. The sharp scales thus present an almost impenetrable wall, protecting the pangolin's vulnerable, soft underparts (5). A female with a young will curl its body around its young, and the erected scales and twitches of the tail act to deter many predators (5).
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Description

With its tough, scaly, armoured body, the three-cusped pangolin looks rather incongruous moving about amongst the foliage of tropical forests. However, with its long, prehensile tail which has a bare, sensory pad at the tip (4), and clawed feet (5), the three-cusped pangolin is well adapted to scale the trunks and branches of trees. Brown, sharp-edged, overlapping scales protect the body of the pangolin (2), which are attached at the base to its thick skin (5). Each of these artichoke-leaf shaped scales have three points, hence the common and scientific name tricuspis (2). The head of the three-cusped pangolin is small and pointed, with thick, heavy eyelids that protect its eyes from the bites of ants and termites on which it feeds (4) (5). For the same reason, its nostrils and ear openings can be closed by special muscles when feeding (4) (5). It feeds using its remarkably long tongue, which can extend to around 25 centimetres and is anchored to a point on the pelvis (5).
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Distribution

African tree pangolins, Manis tricuspis, range across central Africa, from Senegal to Keyna in the east and northern Angola in the south.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

  • Anderson, S., J. Barlow, J. Jones Jr.. 1967. Recent Mammals of the World. New York: The Ronald Press Company.
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Range Description

This species ranges from Guinea-Bissau in West Africa through Guinea, Sierra Leone and much of West Africa to Central Africa as far east as south-western Kenya and north-western Tanzania (west of Lake Tanganyika) and as far south as north-western Zambia and northern Angola; also on Bioko (Kingdon and Hoffmann 2013, APWG unpubl. data). There are no confirmed records from Senegal or The Gambia (Grubb et al. 1998).

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Range

The three-cusped pangolin ranges from Guinea and Sierra Leone in West Africa, east to Kenya and Tanzania, and south to Zambia and Angola (1).
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Physical Description

Morphology

African tree pangolins are characterized by their eponymous scales, which terminate in three cusps. This scaly covering is found all over the body except on most of the face, the inside surface of the legs and the underbelly. Scale color ranges from dark brown to russet to a brownish yellow. They have an elongate skull and a long tongue that serves as their primary feeding tool. Their claws are large and curved, which assists them in their arboreal behavior and dietary habits. African tree pangolins express some sexual dimorphism, as males are slightly larger than females. They generally weigh between 4.5 and 14 kg and are 31 to 45 cm in length. Their average body temperature ranges from 32.6 to 33.6 ˚C. African tree pangolins are smaller than their cousin Manis gigantea, and their tails are thinner than those of most of their African and Asian counterparts.

Range mass: 4.5 to 14 kg.

Range length: 31 to 45 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Rahm, U. 1956. Notes on Pangolins of the Ivory Coast. Journal of Mammalogy, 37/4: 531-537.
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Ecology

Habitat

African tree pangolins inhabit primary tropical forests as well as mosaic forests. They are both arboreal, as their common name implies, as well as terrestrial.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

  • Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World 5th Edition. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Sinsin, B. 2008. Ecology and ethnozoology of the three-cusped pangolin Manis tricuspis (Mammalia, Pholidota) in the Lama Forest Reserve. Mammalia, 72/3: 198-202.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species occurs predominantly in moist tropical lowland forests and secondary growth, but also occurs in dense woodlands, especially along water courses (Kingdon 1971, Gaubert 2011). Sodeinde and Adedipe (1994) noted that White-bellied Pangolins were often caught on abandoned or little-used oil palm trees in secondary growth. This suggests that the species can adapt to at least some degree of habitat modification. In south Nigeria this species was widespread in both primary and secondary rainforests, altered forests (bush) and in farmlands (agricultural areas of former lowland rainforests) (Angelici et al. 1999). However, recent evidence suggests that this species is becoming increasingly scarce in Nigeria (D. Soewu pers. comm. 2013). A study in Lama Forest Reserve in Benin found no significant difference in population densities between plantations and natural forest, and the authors suggested that the distribution of White-bellied Pangolins in the reserve may be more sensitive to forest age than to its composition (Akpona et al. 2008). White-bellied Pangolins are predominantly nocturnal and equally at home in trees and on the ground (Pagès 1975). The species feeds exclusively on ants and termites. Breeding is continuous. The gestation period is approximately 150 days, after which the female gives birth to a single young, which is carried by the female (Kingdon and Hoffmann 2013).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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This arboreal species inhabits lowland tropical moist forest, as well as forest-savannah mosaics. The three-cusped pangolin may also occur in cultivated and fallow land in areas where it is not hunted (1).
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Trophic Strategy

African tree pangolins are insectivorous, specializing on (ants and termites) as well as soft bodied invertebrates. Their tongue and face are well adapted to this insectivory; their elongated snout houses a muscular tongue that can be extended up to a third of their body length. They use their claws on their forelimbs to open an insect mound, and their tongue quickly darts in and out of the mound, collecting insects. African tree pangolins drink water in a similar manner.

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )

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Associations

African tree pangolins eat a considerable amount of insects including ants and termites, and they also serve as prey to many felids. They act as host to ticks of the genus Amblyomma.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

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As a juvenile, infant African tree pangolins rely on the protective curling of their mothers around them to avoid predation. As an adult, they employ a similar strategy of curling up. They have also been known to escape into water to avoid predators. Predators include African golden cats and other felids. Humans also frequently hunt African tree pangolins.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

African tree pangolins have poor vision, but they have an acute sense of smell. They can secrete pungent fluid from glands located near their anus. The use of this secretion is as yet unknown.

Communication Channels: chemical

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

The lifespan of African tree pangolins is currently unknown. One individual in captivity is still alive after 13 years 6 months of age.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
13.5 (high) years.

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Reproduction

African tree pangolins are usually solitary, but they have been observed traveling in pairs. When a male comes across a female, mating occurs if the female is in estrus. Little else is known regarding the mating systems of African tree pangolins.

Mating System: monogamous

Although uncertain, it is believed that African tree pangolins can reproduce at any time of the year. Gestation lasts approximately 150 days. Females usually give birth to 1 infant, and,though uncommon, may produce two. Newborns weigh approximately 200 to 500 grams. Female African tree pangolins reach sexual maturity when they reach a length of approximately 810 mm.

Breeding season: Breeding of African tree pangolins can occur at any time of year.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Average gestation period: 150 days.

Key Reproductive Features: year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Little information is known regarding parental investment of African tree pangolins. Mothers provide care for some duration of time, as infants ride on the back of their mother. For protection, the mother curls into a ball with the infant encompassed in the middle.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Anderson, S., J. Barlow, J. Jones Jr.. 1967. Recent Mammals of the World. New York: The Ronald Press Company.
  • Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World 5th Edition. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Sinsin, B. 2008. Ecology and ethnozoology of the three-cusped pangolin Manis tricuspis (Mammalia, Pholidota) in the Lama Forest Reserve. Mammalia, 72/3: 198-202.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Manis tricuspis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

African tree pangolins are listed as near threatened by the IUCN and on Appendix II by CITES. They vary in number regionally, though overall numbers are decreasing. They are protected by many local governments, but indigenous groups still hunt them for their meat and scales.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A4d

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2014

Assessor/s
Waterman, C., Pietersen, D., Soewu, D., Hywood, L. & Rankin, P.

Reviewer/s
Hoffmann, M.

Contributor/s
Hoffmann, M., Akpona, H. & Wood, K.

Justification
This species is listed as Vulnerable under criteria A4d because it is reasonable to assume that this species has already begun declining and will continue to decline by at least 40% over a 21 year period (seven years past, 14 years future) due mainly to the impact of bushmeat hunting and an increased demand from the international markets, as Asian pangolin populations decline, smuggling syndicates become more sophisticated and economic ties between Africa and China strengthen (mirroring dramatic increases in intercontinental trade for ivory and rhino horn). A generation length of seven years has been used for this assessment; however, it should be noted that there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding this estimate and further research into the life history of this species is required in order to make a more informed estimate of generation length.

History
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/least concern
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
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Status

Classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Population

Population

This is the most common of the African forest pangolins, reaching relatively high densities in suitable habitat (Kingdon and Hoffmann 2013). It is regarded as the most common of the three pangolin species found in Gabon (Pagès 1975) and Nigeria (Angelici et al. 1999). A study in Lama Forest Reserve (South Benin) recorded 38 White-bellied Pangolins at a density of 0.84/km2 during the dry season (Akpona et al. 2008).

The species is believed to be declining in Ghana and Guinea, and close to extinction in Rwanda (Bräutigam et al. 1994). Soewu and Ayodele (2009) report that 92% of traditional Yorubic-medical practitioners among the Awori people in Ogun State, Nigeria, believe that the abundance of pangolins is steadily decreasing while more than 97% reported a continuous decline in the size of pangolins caught. D. Soewu (pers. comm. 2013) similarly reports a decline in both the size and abundance of this species in Nigeria, while also noticing decreasing numbers of this species in bushmeat markets and a concomitant increase in the prevalence of Black-bellied Pangolins, Phataginus tetradactyla, in these markets, suggesting that the White-bellied Pangolin is becoming increasingly scarce. These perceived population declines are worrying in the light of the low reproductive potential of this species.


Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats

While known to occur in a number of protected areas throughout its range, White-bellied Pangolins are subject to widespread and often intensive exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine, and are by far the most common of the pangolins found in African bushmeat markets. Fa et al. (2006) report that during the course of six months fieldwork in Cameroon in 2002-2003, the White-bellied Pangolin was the fourth most harvested species across 47 sites sampled, after the Brush-tailed Porcupine Atherurus africanus, Blue Duiker Philantomba monticola and Giant Pouched Rat Cricetomys emini. Similarly, in a study in Equatorial Guinea around the village of Sendje (including within Monte Alén National Park), it was the fifth most common mammal species in terms of offtake after the Blue Duiker, Brush-tailed Porcupine, Black Colobus Colobus satanus and Giant Pouched Rat (Kümpel 2006). Bräutigam et al. (1994) report that despite pangolin being one of the least commonly sold meats (less than 5% of overall sales) consumer demand for pangolins is high in Gabon, with White-bellied Pangolin meat being the third most requested item at bushmeat markets. White-bellied Pangolins have doubled in price in Nigerian bushmeat markets over the past 20 years and, over the past 10 years, the proportion of White-bellied Pangolins compared with other pangolin species being sold in Nigerian bushmeat markets has decreased (D. Soewu pers. comm. 2013). These trends suggest increased demand for the species and/or indicate that White-bellied Pangolins are harder to obtain, probably as a result of population declines.

The number of pangolins sold for traditional medicine and cultural practices is huge and most likely unsustainable considering the reproductive biology of this species (D. Soewu pers. comm. 2013). For example, Soewu and Ayodele (2009) reported a total of 178 whole White-bellied Pangolins being sold for traditional medicine amongst the Ijebus of Ogun State, South-western Nigeria between April and July 2007, which averaged 1.06 carcasses per dealer per month. Sodeinde and Adepipe (1994) also noted that pangolins used in traditional medicine in south-western Nigeria are exclusively White-bellied Pangolins, the Black-bellied Pangolin being much rarer. Pregnant females and juveniles are preferred for some practices (D. Soewu pers. comm. 2013).

White-bellied Pangolins are recorded in international trade (Bräutigam et al. 1994, Challender and Hywood 2012, Kathy Wood unpubl. data): according to CITES trade reports, during the period 1996 to 2011, 30 live animals were exported from Togo in 1996, 16 in 2002, 16 in 2007, and 25 in 2008 (www.cites.org). The scale of illegal international trade, including to Asian markets, is certainly much greater. For example, Challender and Hywood (2012) report that in 2011 one confiscated consignment comprised 100 White-bellied Pangolin skins (with scales attached) that had originated in Guinea and was bound for Thailand. Documented pangolin seizures undoubtedly account for only a small fraction of actual trade levels based on the low detection rates associated with wildlife trade (Challender and Hywood 2012).

Habitat loss and degradation is likely to be another threat to this species, especially in West Africa (L. Hywood pers. comm. 2013).

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Although not currently considered to be threatened with extinction, the three-cusped pangolin is suffering population declines as a result of hunting (1). It is exploited for its flesh which is eaten (1), and its scales which are used in traditional medicine (4). It is hunted at unsustainable levels in certain areas of its range, and is by far the most common of all pangolin species in African bushmeat markets (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions

While the White-bellied Pangolin is listed on Appendix II of CITES, there is a need to develop and enforce protective legislation in many range states. Vigilance by Customs authorities and efforts in the field to prevent the extraction of White-bellied Pangolins must be increased. Research into the population status of this species in different habitats incorporating more comprehensive studies of population parameters and its ability to withstand hunting pressure is required, along with more in-depth research into the levels of demand and utilization posed by the local markets. Similarly, research needs to be undertaken on intercontinental trade, given the potential magnitude of the threat posed by the Asian markets, especially considering the precipitous decline in the Asian pangolin populations driven by high demands in the region, in particular China, and the growing economic ties between Africa and China (Challender and Hywood 2012). In June 2012, the EU SRG banned the importation of White-bellied Pangolins to the EU based on concerns about the sustainability of trade volumes of this species from Guinea.

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Conservation

The three-cusped pangolin is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), thus the international trade that occurs in this species should be monitored to ensure it is compatible with the survival of the species (1) (3). However, the development and enforcement of laws to protect this pangolin are required (1), to ensure that the status of this species does not deteriorate any further.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no adverse effects of African tree pangolins on humans.

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African tree pangolins are hunted for their meat and scales. The scales are used to make boots and shoes and are also used as indigenous ornaments and in medicines.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material; source of medicine or drug

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Wikipedia

Tree pangolin

The tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis) is one of eight extant species of pangolins ("scaly anteaters"), and is native to equatorial Africa. Also known as the white-bellied pangolin or three-cusped pangolin, it is the most common of the African forest pangolins.

Taxonomy[edit]

The tree pangolin belongs to the subgenus Phataginus, and some authorities elevate Phataginus to genus status. Two subspecies were recognized in 1972 by Meester:

  • M. t. tricuspis[3]
  • M. t. mabirae[4]
A tree pangolin skeleton on display at The Museum of Osteology.

Range and habitat[edit]

The tree pangolin ranges from Guinea through Sierra Leone and much of West Africa to Central Africa as far east as extreme southwestern Kenya and northwestern Tanzania. To the south, it extends to northern Angola and northwestern Zambia. It has been found on the Atlantic island of Bioko, but no records confirm a presence in Senegal, Gambia, or Guinea-Bissau.[5]

The tree pangolin is semiarboreal and generally nocturnal. It is found in lowland tropical moist forests (both primary and secondary), as well as savanna/forest mosaics. It probably adapts to some degree to habitat modification, as it favours cultivated and fallow land where it is not aggressively hunted (e.g., abandoned or little-used oil palm trees in secondary growth).

Behavior[edit]

Climbing a tree

The tree pangolin can walk on all fours or on its hind legs using its prehensile tail for balance. It can climb up trees in the absence of branches. When walking on all fours, it walks on its front knuckles with its claws tucked underneath to protect them from wearing down. Its anal scent glands disperse a foul secretion much like a skunk when threatened. It has a well-developed sense of smell, but, as a nocturnal animal, it has poor eyesight. Instead of teeth, it has a gizzard-like stomach full of stones and sand it ingests. The tree pangolin in Africa fills its stomach with air before entering water to aid in buoyancy for well-developed swimming.

The tree pangolin has many adaptations. When threatened, it rolls up into a ball, protecting itself with its thick skin and scales. Its scales cover its entire body except for the belly, snout, eyes, ears, and undersides of the limbs. When a mother with young is threatened, it rolls up around the young, which also roll into a ball. While in a ball, it can extend its scales and make a cutting action by using muscles to move the scales back and forth. It makes an aggressive huff noise when threatened, but that is the extent of its noise-making.

Diet[edit]

The tree pangolin eats insects such as ants and termites from their nests, or the armies of insects moving on the trees. It relies on its thick skin for protection, and digs into burrows with its long, clawed forefeet. It eats between 5 and 7 ounces (150 to 200 g) of insects a day. The pangolin uses its 10- to 27-in (250- to 700-mm) tongue which is coated with gummy mucus to funnel the insects into its mouth. The tongue is actually sheathed in the chest cavity all the way to the pelvic area.

Reproduction[edit]

Female pangolin territories are solitary and small, less than 10 acres (40,000 m2), and they rarely overlap. Males have larger territories, up to 60 acres (200,000 m2), which overlap many female territories, resulting in male/female meetings. These meetings are brief unless the female is in estrus, when mating occurs. Gestation of young lasts 150 days, and one young per birth is normal. The young pangolin is carried on its mother's tail until it is weaned after three months, but it will remain with its mother for five months in total. At first, the newborn's scales are soft, but, after a few days, they start to harden. In captivity, females have been known to adopt the young of others.

Economic uses[edit]

The tree pangolin is subject to widespread and often intensive exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine, and is by far the most common of the pangolins found in African bushmeat markets. Conservationists believe this species has undergone a decline of 20-25% over the past 15 years (three pangolin generations) due mainly to the impact of the bushmeat hunting. They assert it continues to be harvested at unsustainable levels in some of its range and have recently elevated its status from "Least Concern" to "Near Threatened".[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schlitter, D. A. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 531. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Waterman, C., Pietersen, D., Soewu, D., Hywood, L. & Rankin, P. (2014). "Phataginus tricuspis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  3. ^ Rafinesque, 1821. Ann. Sci. Phys. Brux., 7: 215. Obsolete synonyms: M. multiscutata Gray, 1843; M. tridentata Focillon, 1850.
  4. ^ Allen and Loveridge, 1942.
  5. ^ Tree pangolins are native to parts of Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia. They may be present in Burundi, but this is uncertain.
  6. ^ Pangolin Specialist Group (2008). Phataginus tricuspis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
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