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Know the Indian Pangolin

About the Indian Pangolin

Also known as the thick-tailed pangolin, M. crassicaudata is a distinctive animal that has an elongated tapering body, covered with large overlapping scales (11- 13 around the body) which act like armour plates, except on snout, chin, sides of face, throat, belly and inner surface of limbs. These moveable scales are shed periodically. Scales may be regarded as hairs or rather as spines enormously enlarged and flattened. However, there are some thin, long, light-coloured hairs present in the bare parts. The shape and topography of scales change with wear and tear. Colour varies from different shades of brown to yellow, often depends on the colour of the earth of its den. Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) occurs in South Asia from parts of eastern Pakistan through much of India (excluding north-eastern portions) south of the Himalayas and Sri Lanka.



In Sri Lanka, M. crassicaudata is the solitary species belonging to Order Pholidota. It has achieved a significance cultural value and it has been recorded throughout the lowlands, up to 1,100 msl, often coinciding with the range of termites. It has been recorded in different types of tropical forests, mainly moist, dry deciduous, wet to semi-evergreen, thorn as well as grasslands.


Though terrestrial in habit, Indian pangolins are excellent climbers, using caterpillar locomotion, with the firm grip of forefeet on the tree. The tail provides auxiliary support. The pangolins are highly specialized in their feeding habits. They feed mainly on eggs, young ones and adults of termites and ants by digging the termite or ant nests. Before digging the termite or ant nests, they utilize their sense organs, smell rapidly around the area to select the most suitable spot to start with and feed rapidly by extending protrusible, long, thin, tongue into the galleries of nests. Due to absence of teeth, food is directly taken into the stomach and grinded with the help of strong musculature and pebbles collected during feeding. The Indian pangolin was found to use living burrows and feeding burrows; living burrows for sleeping and resting purposes during day time. By comparison of the total number of inactive and active living burrows, they observed that the Indian pangolin usually abandons its living burrows after few months and digs new one close to the availability of prey species, however, re-shifting to the older living burrow is also possible.

Pangolins are timid and inoffensive. For defence, they tackle their head towards belly and curl up under the broad scaly tail so that all the vulnerable parts of the body are protected. Male and female are found to occupy the same burrow with the young but very little is known about the breeding habits. Gestation periods range from 65-70 days. Usually one offspring is born at a time. Pangolin mothers nurture their young in nesting burrows. A mother will protectively roll around her baby when sleeping or if threatened. Babies nurse for three to four months, but can eat termites and ants at one month. At that time the infant begins to accompany the mother outside of the burrow, riding on the base of her tail as she forages for insects.

male female