The thick-tailed pangolin, also known as the Indian Pangolin is the bearer of some of the most effective armor of the mammalian world. Its entire body is covered in scales that are moveable and are shed periodically. When threatened the species is able to roll up into a firm ball that protects the unprotected underside of its body, its snout and the inside of its limbs. Unfortunately, the scales that function as their defense against predators, are the main reason these incredible species are so endangered.
The pangolin is a distinctive animal that has an elongated shape. It has a cone-shaped head, a mound in the middle (the body), and a thick, tapering tail. Overlapping “armour plates” take the place of fur, but there are some thin, long, light-coloured hairs present in the bare parts. Although the body colour of M. crassicaudata is usually yellowish brown, its colour depends on the colour of the earth of its den. The nose of the pangolin has a brown colour. Forelegs are a bit shorter than the hind legs. The sharply curved claws of the front legs, with the third claw being longer than the rest, produce a very unique footprint. The M. crassicaudata is generally solitary, nocturnal and burrow-dwelling except during mating season, when adult males and females share the same burrow.
Pangolins start their food forays after dark, usually around 8 pm. They prey mainly on termites or weaver ants, either on the ground or in trees. Ground nests of termites are torn apart while the tree nests of weaver ants are destroyed to get eggs, young and adults.
When eating, the pangolin can close its eyes (it has thick eyelids) as well as its nostrils and ears in order to protect these areas from biting ants. The species typically lives alone in burrows except during mating season when an adult male and female pair would share the same burrow. The female would give birth after 65 to 70 days to a single offspring or twins. The young lives with the mother in the burrow for 2 to 4 weeks after which it is carried around on its mother's back or tail. No paternal care is shown by the species and the young are weaned after three months.
Habitat and Distribution
These burrows (usually 2-6 m deep) are usually built amongst large rocks, and the entrance is concealed by dirt. Although mainly ground-dwelling, this species is arboreal (live in trees) in some habitats and is a good climber, using its prehensile tail and claws to climb trees. This species is distributed in parts of South Asia that include eastern Pakistan, southern Nepal, Bangladesh, India (south of the Himalayas to extreme southern India) and Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, it can be found throughout the lowlands, up to 1100 m in elevation, coinciding with the range of termites.
Threats and Conservation
Pangolins are primarily threatened by hunting and poaching for meat and scales at the local, subsistence level, but increasingly for illegal international trade as well. Its meat is consumed as a source of protein locally, and its scales are used in whole or powdered form in the preparation of traditional medicines and as curios. Although there is virtually no information available on population levels of Asian pangolins, this species is thought to be in significant decline with increasing levels of poaching. Therefore, the species is listed as endangered in the Global IUCN Red List. In the National IUCN Red List 2012, it is categorized as Near Threatened. This species is listed in CITES Appendix II. Pangolins are nationally protected in Sri Lanka by the Flora and Fauna Protection (Amendment) Act No. 22 of 2009 (included in Schedule II).
Yapa, A. and Ratnavira, G. (2013). The Mammals of Sri Lanka. Colombo 3, Sri Lanka: Field Ornithology Group. pp 589-596
Baillie, J., Challender, D., Kaspal, P., Khatiwada, A., Mohapatra, R. & Nash, H. 2014. Manis crassicaudata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T12761A45221874.http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-2.RLTS.T12761A45221874.en. Downloaded on 14 June 2015