Manis Javanica Classification Essay


Taxonomy [top]


Scientific Name:Manis javanica Desmarest, 1822
Common Name(s):
EnglishSunda Pangolin, Malayan Pangolin
FrenchPangolin Javanais, Pangolin Malais
SpanishPangolín Malayo
Taxonomic Notes:Populations in the Philippines formerly attributed to this species were separated under the name Manis culionensis by Feiler (1998) and subsequently by Gaubert and Antunes (2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2d+3d+4d ver 3.1
Year Published:2014
Date Assessed:2013-06-26
Assessor(s):Challender, D., Nguyen Van, T., Shepherd, C., Krishnasamy, K., Wang, A., Lee, B., Panjang, E., Fletcher, L., Heng, S., Seah Han Ming, J., Olsson, A., Nguyen The Truong, A., Nguyen Van, Q. & Chung, Y.
Reviewer(s):Duckworth, J.W.
This species is listed as Critically Endangered A2d+3d+4d due to high levels of hunting and poaching for its meat and scales, which is primarily driven by exports to China, though local consumption and utilisation also take place across the species' range. There have been suspected declines of <80% over the last 21 years (generation length estimated at seven years), and projected continuing declines of >80% over the next 21 years, with the intensity of hunting having moved into the southern parts of the species' range.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The species is widely distributed geographically, occurring across mainland and island Southeast East Asia, from southern China and Myanmar through lowland Lao PDR, much of Thailand, central and southern Viet Nam, Cambodia, to Peninsular Malaysia, to Sumatra, Java and adjacent islands (Indonesia) and to Borneo (Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei) though the northern and western limits of its range are poorly known (Schlitter 2005, Wu et al. 2005). It has been recorded from sea level up to 1,700 m asl.

This species is distributed in central and southern Myanmar (Corbet and Hill 1992, Salter 1983), but has apparently been eradicated widely from lowland areas due to human agricultural expansion and hunting (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2006).

The species historically occurred throughout Thailand (Lekagul and McNeely 1977, Bain and Humphrey 1982,  WCMC et al. 1999), but has since been lost from much of the lowland areas due to human agricultural expansion and hunting (J.W. Duckworth and R. Steinmitz pers. comms. 2006). Camera trap data confirms the presence of the species in Khao Yai National Park (Lynam et al. 2006 in Newton et al. 2008). 

In Viet Nam, there are records which very in reliability from throughout the central and southern parts of the country. There are older records from Kon Tum Province, Tay Ninh Province and Quang Nam Province (Bourret 1942). There are more recent records (summarised by Newton 2007) from: Ha Tinh Province (Timmins and Cuong 1999); Kien Giang and Ca Mau Provinces (in U Minh Thuong National Park) (CARE 2004); Dong Nai, Bin Phuoc and Lam Dong Provinces (Cat Tien National Park) (Murphy and Phan 2001); Quang Binh (Le et al. 1997b) and Dak Lak (Le et al. 1997a). Recent research suggests the species is present but rare in central and southern Viet Nam (MacMillan and Nguyen 2013, Nuwer and Bell 2013). However, it is understood to be present in Cat Tien National Park and recent enforcement activity suggests the species is still present in Dak Nong, Kon Tum, Quang Binh and Gia Lai provinces as well as U Minh Thuong National Park (L. Fletcher & A. Nguyen, pers. comms. 2013). Based on camera trap data it is also present in U Minh Ha National Park (Willcox et al. in prep.).

This species was presumably widespread in Lao PDR historically. There are records of varying reliability from a wide range of areas below c. 600 m asl altitude, though it is possible that in Lao PDR the species is restricted to the Mekong plain and adjacent foothills up to c. 900 m asl, with a possible occurrence on the Bolaven Plateau, north from Xe Pian National Biodiversity Conservation Area in the south at least as far north as Nam Kading (Duckworth et al. 1999, J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2006). Nooren and Claridge (2001) reported that populations in Lao PDR have been severely reduced as a result of hunting for consumption and trade.

In Cambodia, M. javanica has been recorded as present from 150 m to 800 m asl (A. Olsson pers. comm. 2012). According to hunters in Cambodia, its distribution is concentrated around water bodies in the dry season, though in the wet season is present throughout deciduous forest, low land and mountainous evergreen forest and secondary forest. Although it is widely distributed in Cambodia, hunters infer that it now only occurs in low numbers. 

The species is widely distributed geographically in Peninsular Malaysia, primarily in forest, but also in gardens and plantations, including oil palm and rubber plantations (Medway 1977; Numata et al. 2005). It is also found on the island on Penang. Numata et al. (2005) and Ickes and Thomas (2003) note its presence in oil palm and regenerating lowland dipterocarp forest in and around Pasoh Forest Reserve where it was previously considered common. Manis javanica remains present within oil palm plantations in Selangor and Negri Sembilan, Peninsular Malaysia, based on interviews with plantation workers (Azhar et al. 2013). However, Azhar et al. (2013) report that in areas where interviews have been conducted that it is in decline from hunting for trade.     

This species is widely distributed on Borneo, from sea level to 1,700 m asl on Mount Kinabalu in Sabah (Payne et al. 1985). It has been recorded in mixed dipterocarp forest, riverine forest (Azlan and Engkamat 2013) as well as remnant forests here (Giman et al. 2007). It is rarely seen in Sabah, especially compared to ten years ago (Panjang, E. pers. comms. 2013), although it is evidently widely distributed, being known by local people throughout the state (Davies and Payne 1982).  The species is reportedly still found in Kebun Cina Forest Reserve (Sabah; Damit 2009) while data from Sabah Wildlife Department suggest the species is mainly distributed in central Sabah (E. Panjang pers. comm. 2013). Surveys conducted in 2005 report the presence of the species at Bintulu, Sarawak (Wilson et al. 2006) though it appears to be absent from the extensive peat swamp forests in this state (CITES 2000). The species is presumably present in Brunei, which was reported by Medway (1977), and which is supported by the 'rescue' of a small number of individuals here in 2013. The abundance of this species is understood to be low in the peat-swamp forests of east and central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo; S. Cheyne pers. comm. 2012) but otherwise has a widespread distribution in Indonesia on Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Kiau and Lingga archipelago, Bangka and Belitung, Nias and Pagi islands, Bali and adjacent islands (Corbet and Hill 1992). 

The species is still found in the wild in Singapore and adjacent islands, including Pulau Tekong, and potentially Pulau Ubin (CITES 2000, Lim and Ng 2007).

In the northern part of its range, the species probably does not widely occur above 600 m asl (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2006). In Sabah it has been recorded up to 1,700 m asl (Payne et al. 1985) and there is a specimen in the Natural History Museum (London) from 1,500 m asl from Lombok, Indonesia (P. Newton pers. comm. 2008). Again in the northern parts of its range, the species overlaps with the range of Manis pentadactyla, which is generally said to occupy higher altitudinal habitats, though recent interviews with hunters in Viet Nam suggest that they can be found in the same areas of forest, and that the differences between the species are ecological, relating to diet and habitat use, rather than altitude (P. Newton pers. comm. 2008).
Countries occurrence:


Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; Indonesia; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Singapore; Thailand; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):1700
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There is virtually no information available on population levels of any species of Asian pangolin and no comprehensive population estimates. This species is rarely observed, principally because of its increasing rarity, but also because it is secretive, elusive and primarily nocturnal. There is a paucity of research on population densities at local, national and global scales (WCMC et al. 1999, CITES 2000).

This species is now extremely rare in the northern part of its range (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2006) where there have been massive declines, especially in Lao PDR (Nooren and Claridge 2001), though populations appear stable in Singapore (B. Lee pers. comm. 2013). Here, Lim and Ng (2007) estimated the range size of one individual, but made no estimate of total population size or density. Recent revision of the national Red List assessment in Singapore lists the species as Critically Endangered (Singapore Red Data Book 2008). It is similarly listed as Endangered in Viet Nam (Viet Nam Red Data Book 2007), 'Rare' in Cambodia (2003) and Vulnerable in Peninsular Malaysia (2012).

In three areas of Viet Nam where interviews were conducted (Khe Net Protected Area, Ke Go Nature Reserve and Song Thanh National Park), 95% of hunters here believed pangolins populations have declined severely, which is a consequence of hunting pressure (Newton et al. 2008). Hunters reported that populations had massively declined in the last few decades, but particularly since about 1990, when the commercial trade in pangolins began to escalate (Newton 2007). In all three areas, the species was described as now being extremely rare. The intense biodiversity survey effort and extremely limited number of confirmed records of pangolins throughout Viet Nam's protected areas adds weight to this observation (P. Newton pers. comm. 2008). The rarity of the species was highlighted in more recent research in U Minh Thuong National Park (Nuwer and Bell 2013) and Quang Nam Province (MacMillan and Nguyen 2013).

In a number of reserves in the Cardomom Mountains, Cambodia (the Elephant mountains, Central Cambodian Lowland Forests (Prey Long), Eastern Plains Landscape, Northern Plains and Northeast Cambodia) this species is present but populations are declining. Interviews with hunters suggest the species is absent in some of these areas, which is attributed to hunting (A. Olsson pers. comm. 2013). 

In three separate areas within the range of Manis javanica in Lao PDR (Xe Pian, Dong Phou Veng and Khammouan Limestone NBCA), villagers reported in the late 1990's that pangolin populations had declined due to hunting, in some areas to as little as one percent of the level 30 years ago, i.e. since the 1960's (Duckworth et al. 1999; Nooren & Claridge 2001).

This species is present in Peninsular Malaysia, where it has previously been described as common in some areas, at least up until 1999 (Ickes and Thomas 2003). Azhar et al. (2013) report its presence in oil palm plantations in Selangor and Negri Sembilan though it is subject to very heavy hunting pressure here. According to Numata et al. (2005) the species is present in Pasoh Forest Reserve. Based on recent camera trap data, the species is also present in the Kenyir Wildlife Corridor (D.W.S. Challender, pers. comms. 2013). However, interviews with hunters and villagers in 2007 and 2011 indicate populations in Peninsular Malaysia are decreasing as a result of hunting pressure for trade (D.W.S. Challender pers. comm. 2013).

In Sabah, Manis javanica has previously been considered relatively common (Han and Giman pers. comms. 2008 assessment), and though there is little recent data on the species' status here, populations are under pressure from collection for both local use and international trade, which seems to have intensified in recent years based on available evidence, and which could well be having a detrimental impact on population levels (Pantel and Anak 2010).  For example, Pantel and Anak (2010) report that >22,000 pangolins were collected for trade in an 18-month period here between 2007 and 2009.

There is no recent data on the status of this species in Myanmar though seizures involving the Sunda pangolin in China in recent years infer that trade originated in Myanmar suggesting populations of this species here are under threat (Challender et al. in prep).    

M. javanica is considered threatened and becoming increasingly rare in Thailand (Bain and Humphrey 1982, Steinmitz pers. comm. 2006).

Evidence from seizures involving this species attest it is present in some number in Indonesia (Sumatra, Java and Kalimantan). However, the magnitude of international trade originating from Indonesia in the last decade suggests populations here are or could be in severe decline. Stating categorically that this is the case is difficult due to a lack of information on past or present population levels, and commands further research.  However, bearing in mind the estimated generation length of seven years, the indiscriminate nature of poaching and the magnitude of seized trade, for example there have been seizures comprising 11, 14 and 17 tonnes between 2000 and 2013, each of which involved several thousand animals and which likely comprises only a fraction of the trade, supports this assertion (Challender 2011).

Although Palawan in the Philippines was previously thought to be a stronghold for this species, here the species has since been re-categorized as the Philippine pangolin.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is found in primary and secondary forest, including lowland dipterocarp forest, and cultivated areas including gardens and oil palm and rubber plantations, including near human settlements (Azhar et al. 2013, Nowak 1999). Hunters interviewed in Viet Nam reported that the species is found in a variety of habitats, though areas with primary forest support more pangolins, probably because they contain more older, larger trees with hollows suitable for sleeping and for use as den sites (P. Newton pers. comm. 2008) and support lower levels of human activity. However, the population in Singapore is in very low quality forest in which they have been able to survive for decades without an obvious decline (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2006). Moreover, further research is required into habitat utilization and the ability of this species to persist outside primary forest.  

As with other pangolins, this species is primarily nocturnal, solitary and a specialized feeder on ants and termites. Inference from other species indicates that one young is born at a time, after a gestation period of at minimum 130 days.

Hunters in Viet Nam consistently reported that Manis javanica is a more arboreal species than Manis pentadactyla, and that they are adept climbers, with prehensile tails. They often climb to access ants nests in trees. They sleep in hollows either in, or at the base of, trees, but have also been known to dig burrows in soil.

Lim and Ng (2007), recorded the activity budget of a radio-tracked individual, with the following results: maternal care following the birth of a single offspring was for approximately three to four months, Challender et al. (2011) witnessed behaviour in captivity concurring with this, three natal dens were used, all associated with hollows in large trees (50 cm DBH) and home-range size was estimated as being 6.97 ha. Daily activity was 127 +-13.1 minutes, with peak activity between 03h00 and 06h00. 
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):7
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species has been exploited across its geographic range historically. This has primarily comprised hunting for local, subsistence level consumption, as a source of protein, and for international trade in skins, scales and meat (Harrisson and Loh 1965, CITES 2000).  Skins have been used to manufacture boots, shoes and other leather items while the scales have been used, either in whole or powdered form, in the preparation of traditional medicines amongst other uses (CITES 2000). Most trade reported to CITES up to the year 2000 involved skins and scales but there is also evidence that a substantial illegal trade also took place, including live animals for consumptive purposes (Challender et al. in prep., CITES 2000, Li and Li 1998). Since 2000 specifically, when zero export quotas were established for wild-caught specimens of this species traded for primarily commercial purposes, there has been high volumes of illicit, international trade. This has involved an estimated tens of thousands of Sunda pangolins traded between Southeast Asia and East Asia, mainly China (Challender et al. in prep.). It largely involved live or dead animals as well as meat, which is consumed conspicuously as a luxury dish in China, and scales for use in traditional medicines (Challender et al. in prep., Pantel and Chin 2009).

Although dated Martin and Phipps (1996) noted Manis javanica meat, scales and blood for sale in a restaurant in Cambodia. Recent research suggests animals caught in Cambodia are traded across the border to meet demand for luxury meat and scales in Viet Nam (D.W.S. Challender pers. comm. 2013).     

In Indonesia, this species continues to be hunted for local, subsistence use in central and eastern Kalimantan (S. Cheyne pers. comm. 2013). However, there is voluminous trade in the animals from Indonesia, largely from Sumatra, and primarily to China and Viet Nam (Pantel and Chin 2009, Challender et al. in prep.). There is evidence of professional, commercial scale hunting of the species here solely for the purpose of commercial international trade. While this largely involved pangolin skins prior to 2000, for the leather trade to North America, in the last decade it has involved live animals, their scales and pangolin meat, based on available evidence, and which has primarily been destined for China as well as Viet Nam (Challender et al. in prep., Sopyan 2009).

In Malaysia the scales of this species have been used in the belief they cure asthma (CITES 2000) and provide protection from spirits (D.W.S. Challender pers. comm. 2013). However, as above, there is evidence of heavy international trade in live animals and their scales from both Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia largely to East Asia (Challender et al. in prep., Pantel and Anak 2010).

In Viet Nam, pangolins have been consumed for subsistence purposes historically but with increasing monetary value they are now largely entered into trade to urban centres and as well as international trade (Newton et al. 2008). As a result the animals are very rare here (e.g. Nuwer and Bell 2013, MacMillan and Nguyen 2013). Despite national protection, the animals continue to be consumed as a luxury wild meat in urban restaurants here and their scales used in traditional medicines. Animals seized in international trade are also frequently auctioned off by provincial authorities, as is legal under Vietnamese law. Similarly, this species is found in trade and consumed in China, the primary market for pangolins in Asia (Pantel and Chin 2009).

Lao PDR and Thailand both play key roles in trade in live animals from Southeast Asia to East Asia (Challender, DWS. pers. comms. 2013). Similarly, it is understood pangolin scales, as well as live animals, are sourced from Myanmar for international trade to China.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The primary threat to Manis javanica is hunting and poaching for international trade, both targeted and untargeted, and which is largely driven by export trade to China, involving live animals, their meat and scales (Challender 2011, Pantel and Chin 2009).  Local use also comprises a threat though evidence suggests this is now largely forgone in favour of international trade, given the high monetary value of this species (MacMillan and Nguyen 2013, Newton et al. 2008).  In the last decade or so this trade has involved tens of thousands of Sunda pangolins and the species is evidently subject to very heavy collection pressure across much of its range, with the intensity of poaching having moved into the southern part of it's range. The nature of this trade suggests it is illegal and based on available evidence most trade in the last decade was destined for China and Viet Nam, where increasing wealth has seemingly led to an increase in the exploitation of this species in Asia (Challender et al. in prep., Challender and MacMillan 2014).  In both China and Viet Nam pangolin meat is consumed as a luxury product and scales are used in traditional medicines in an attempt to cure skin ailments, improve blood circulation and stimulate milk secretion in lactating women, among other ailments including cancer (Ellis 2005, Yue 2009). Modern trade routes are both sophisticated and extensive occurring over land and by sea. Contemporary trade follows a heavy international trade historically and within the time frame of three generations of this species (estimated at 21 years). Based on CITES data between 1975 and 2011 trade in this species included nearly approximately 500,000 animals, which mainly comprised skins which were traded to North America and largely occurred  between 1978 and 2000, i.e. before the introduction of CITES export quotas, which prohibit international trade in wild caught specimens of this species for commercial purposes (Broad et al. 1988; Challender et al. in prep.).  However, evidence indicates a heavy, unrecorded and therefore likely illicit trade involving live animals and scales also occurred throughout this period (Anon. 1999, Li and Li 1998, CITES 2000, Newton et al. 2008, Wu and Ma 2007). Since 2000, and although the trade in skins appears to have ceased, as above, it now largely involves live animals, meat and scales (Challender 2011, Challender et al. in prep., Sopyan 2009). 

In Cambodia, the threat to pangolins from hunting is increasing due to rising prices and loggers are expending more effort hunting pangolins because of less luxurious wood in the forest (A. Olsson pers. comm. 2013). Economic land concessions, dam projects, infrastructure and the clearing of habitat also threaten the species here, as in Lao PDR, Myanmar and other parts of this species' range (A. Olsson pers. comm. 2013). Recent research in Viet Nam suggests pangolins hunted in Cambodia are illegally exported to Viet Nam (D.W.S. Challender pers. comm. 2013).  

In Lao PDR, interviews with villagers in the 1990s suggested populations had declined by up to 90% within a decade, i.e. between the 1980s and 1990s, though there is a lack of hard data supporting this (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2006). More recently, and since populations in Lao PDR and Thailand have been greatly reduced, much recent trade has originated or being exported from Malaysia and Indonesia and destined for China, based on seizure data (GMA Indonesia Workshop 2006, Challender et al. in prep.). Both Lao PDR and Thailand play a key role as transit countries in regional trade involving live animals (D.W.S. Challender pers. comm. 2013).

Indonesia has been illegally exporting large numbers of live animals as well as meat, especially in the last decade, some of which come from east Kalimantan (G. Semiadi pers. comm. 2006, Sopyan 2009). Targeted hunting is the biggest threat here especially on Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java as evidenced by seizures involving several thousands animals over the last decade (G. Semiadi pers. comm. 2013, Challender 2011, Pantel and Chin 2009).

Malaysia has been experiencing targeted hunting almost exclusively for international trade in meat and scales in recent years and though this includes foreigners, it mostly involves Malaysian nationals. Reported price increases are acting as an incentive to poach and enter the species into national and international trade (Pantel and Anak 2010), which includes poachers coming in from outside (J. Chong pers. comm. 2012) and increasing land conversion for palm oil throughout Malaysia has also created easy road access for poachers. The longevity of palm oil cycles, i.e. removal of old palms and the replanting of new (c. every 12 years), suggests that where this species does persist in these habitats, it is not viable in the long term, though further research on this front is needed.

In Singapore roadkill is probably the biggest threat to this species and though poaching does occur here, it is not thought to be a significant problem.

The population in the southern part of Thailand has crashed because of trade and in the last few years many animals have been confiscated from illegal traders (Challender et al. in prep). This species is hunted by specially trained dogs, which can smell it out, making hunting much more effective and in Lao PDR such pangolin dogs are highly valued (up to USD 2000) (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2006). Deliberate and accidental burning of forests, therefore habitat loss, also, constitutes a secondary threat to the species here.

Every hunter interviewed in Viet Nam (n = 84) reported that they now sell all pangolins that they catch (P. Newton pers. comm. 2008). Prices are so high that local, subsistence use of pangolins for either meat or their scales has completely halted in favour of selling to the national/international trade (P. Newton pers. comm. 2008). 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. 2008). The price per kg of pangolin, paid to hunters (in Viet Nam, at least) has escalated rapidly (at a rate greater than that of annual inflation) since the commercial trade in pangolins began to expand in about 1990 (P. Newton pers. comm. 2008). Prices paid to hunters now exceed US$95 per kg (Viet Nam, P. Newton pers. comm. 2008); US$45 per kg (Newton et al. 2008) and US$17 per kg (Indonesia, D. Martyr pers. comm. to P. Newton).  The main threat in Viet Nam remains hunting therefore, including taking pangolins caught as non-target species. This species is in demand in urban centres such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City both for meat, a luxury product, and scales, and which is attributed to increasing affluence following economic reforms in the 20th century.

This species is known to be harvested for international trade in both live animals and scales in Myanmar, as evidenced by seizures in China.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed in CITES Appendix II and zero export quotas were established for wild-caught specimens traded for primarily commercial purposes in 2000 (CoP11).  It is found in protected areas within its range, but has been hunted out of some, especially in Thailand (Anak pers. comm. c. 2008) and more effective enforcement of existing laws is critical for the conservation of this species. Identification and verification of strongholds where conservation efforts should be concentrated is also crucial. More research into pangolin consumption is also needed urgently with which to inform demand reduction programmes, especially in China.

The Sunda pangolin is listed as a protected species in all range states, with the exception of Brunei Darussalam, where it receives broad protection under the Forestry Act (2002) and Wildlife Protection Act (1981) as well as the Wild Fauna and Flora Order (2007) which implements CITES. 

In Singapore, the species is protected under the Wild Animals and Birds Act (1965, amended 2000) and the Wild Animals and Birds (Composition of Offences) Order 2005. It also receives protection here under the Endangered Species Act (Import/Export) Act (2006, amended 2008).

In Viet Nam this species is listed as legally protected in Group IIB of Decree 32 on the Management of Endangered, Precious, and Rare Species of wild Plants and Animals (2006). However, Section 9 of this law enables pangolins seized from illicit trade to be legally sold back into trade. Lack of an appropriate solution for confiscated pangolins continues to be a major problem for enforcement agencies in Viet Nam.  

Manis javanica has been protected in Indonesia since 1931, under Wildlife Protection Ordinance No. 266 of 1931 (promulgated by the Dutch administration), as well as under Act. No. 5 of 1990, regarding Conservation of Natural Resources and Their Ecosystems; Decree of the Minister of Forestry No. 301/kpts-II/1991 and Decree of the Minister of Forestry No. 822/kpts-II/1992. It also receives protection under the Government Regulation on Conservation on Flora & Fauna No. 7 (1999). 

Manis javanica is a totally protected species in Peninsular Malaysia under the Wildlife Conservation Act (2010) and receives protection under the International Trade in Endangered Species Act (2008). In Sabah it is listed as protected in the Wildlife Conservation Enactment (1997) while it is also listed as protected in Sarawak under Sarawak's Wildlife Protection Ordinance (1998).

In accordance with the Wildlife and Protected Areas Law (1994) M. javanica is listed as a Completely Protected Animal in Myanmar.

In Thailand, all Manis spp. are classified as Protected Wild Animals under the 1992 Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act B.E. 2535.

In Lao PDR Manis javanica is listed in the 'Prohibition' category of its Wildlife and Aquatic Law (2007) as a rare, near extinct, high value or species of special importance in the development of socio-economic, environmental, educational and scientific research.

In Cambodia this species is listed as rare in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Declaration 020 and receives protection under the Forestry Law (2002) and Sub-Decree No. 53 on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora (2006).

Although not listed as a protected species in China, as a CITES Appendix II listed-species, Manis javanica is considered a State Category II protected species here under regulation including the Protection of Wildlife Act (1989), the Regulations on the Implementation of Protection of Terrestrial Wild Animals (1992), and the Regulations on Management of Import and Export of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 2006, which implements CITES. Pangolins in China also received further protection in the year 2000, following the promulgation of two judicial interpretations, which defined criteria for punishing crimes involving pangolins specifically. Similarly, a notification issued by national Chinese agencies in 2007 strengthened regulation for species used in traditional medicines, including pangolins, meaning hunting licenses for pangolins are not to be issued and existing stockpiles of pangolin scales are to be subject to verification, certification and subject to trade only through designated outlets such as hospitals.

"Pholidota" redirects here. For the orchid, see Pholidota (plant).

Pangolins are mammals of the order Pholidota. The one extant family, Manidae, has three genera: Manis, which comprises four species living in Asia; Phataginus, which comprises two species living in Africa; and Smutsia, which comprises two species also living in Africa.[1] These species range in size from 30 to 100 cm (12 to 39 in). A number of extinct pangolin species are also known.

Pangolins have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin, and they are the only known mammals with this feature. They live in hollow trees or burrows, depending on the species. Pangolins are nocturnal, and their diet consists of mainly ants and termites which they capture using their long tongues. They tend to be solitary animals, meeting only to mate and produce a litter of one to three offspring which are raised for about two years. Pangolins are threatened by hunting (for their meat and scales) and heavy deforestation of their natural habitats, and are the most trafficked mammals in the world.[2] Of the eight species of pangolin, four (Phataginus tetradactyla, P. tricuspis, Smutsia gigantea, and S. temminckii) are listed as vulnerable, two (Manis crassicaudata and M. culionensis) are listed as endangered, and two (M. pentadactyla and M. javanica) are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of NatureRed List of Threatened Species.[3]


The name pangolin comes from the Malay word pengguling, meaning "one who rolls up".[4] However, the modern name in Standard Malay is tenggiling, whereas in Indonesian it is trenggiling.


The physical appearance of a pangolin is marked by large, hardened, overlapping plate-like scales, which are soft on newborn pangolins, but harden as the animal matures.[5] They are made of keratin, the same material of which human fingernails and tetrapodclaws are made. The pangolin's scaled body is comparable to a pine cone or globe artichoke. It can curl up into a ball when threatened, with its overlapping scales acting as armor, while it protects its face by tucking it under its tail. The scales are sharp, providing extra defense from predators.[6]

Pangolins can also emit a noxious-smelling chemical from glands near the anus, similar to the spray of a skunk.[7] They have short legs, with sharp claws which they use for burrowing into termite and ant mounds, as well as climbing.[8]

The tongues of pangolins are extremely long like those of the giant anteater and the tube-lipped nectar bat; the root of the tongue is not attached to their hyoid bone, but is located in the thorax[9] between the sternum and the trachea. Large pangolins can extend their tongues as much as 40 cm (16 in), with a diameter of only 0.5 cm (0.20 in).[10]


Most pangolins are nocturnal animals that use their well-developed sense of smell to find insects. The long-tailed pangolin is also active by day, while other species of pangolins spend most of the daytime sleeping, curled up into a ball.[10]

Arboreal pangolins live in hollow trees, whereas the ground-dwelling species dig tunnels underground, to a depth of 3.5 m (11 ft).[10]

Some pangolins walk with their front claws bent under the foot pad, although they use the entire foot pad on their rear limbs. Furthermore, some exhibit a bipedal stance for some behaviors and may walk a few steps bipedally.[11] Pangolins are also good swimmers.[10]


Pangolins are insectivorous. Most of their diet consists of various species of ants and termites and may be supplemented by other insects, especially larvae. They are somewhat particular and tend to consume only one or two species of insects, even when many species are available to them. A pangolin can consume 140 to 200 g (4.9 to 7.1 oz) of insects per day.[12]

Pangolins have a very poor sense of vision, so they rely heavily on smell and hearing. Pangolins also lack teeth, therefore they have evolved other physical characteristics to help them eat ants and termites. Their skeletal structure is sturdy and they have strong front legs that are useful for tearing into termite mounds.[13] They use their powerful front claws to dig into trees, ground, and vegetation to find prey,[14] then proceed to use their long tongues to probe inside the insect tunnels and to retrieve their prey.

The structure of their tongue and stomach is key to aiding pangolins in obtaining and digesting insects. Their saliva is sticky,[13] causing ants and termites to stick to their long tongues when they are hunting through insect tunnels. Without teeth, pangolins also lack the ability to chew;[15] however, while foraging, they ingest small stones (gastroliths) which accumulate in their stomachs to help to grind up ants.[16] This part of their stomach is called the gizzard, and it is also covered in keratinous spines.[17] These spines further aid in the grinding up and digestion of the pangolin's prey. 

Some species, such as the tree pangolin, use their strong, prehensile tails to hang from tree branches and strip away bark from the trunk, exposing insect nests inside.[18]


Pangolins are solitary and meet only to mate. Males are larger than females, weighing up to 40% more. While mating season is defined, they typically mate once each year, usually during the summer or autumn. Rather than the males seeking out the females, males mark their location with urine or feces and the females will find them. If there is competition over a female, the males will use their tails as clubs to fight for the opportunity to mate with her.[19]

Gestation periods differ by species, ranging from roughly 70 to 140 days.[20] African pangolin females usually give birth to a single offspring at a time, but the Asiatic species may give birth from one to three.[10] Weight at birth is 80 to 450 g (2.8 to 15.9 oz) and the average length is 150 mm (5.9 in). At the time of birth, the scales are soft and white. After several days, they harden and darken to resemble those of an adult pangolin. During the vulnerable stage, the mother stays with her offspring in the burrow, nursing it, and wraps her body around it if she senses danger. The young cling to the mother's tail as she moves about, although in burrowing species, they remain in the burrow for the first two to four weeks of life. At one month, they first leave the burrow riding on the mother's back. Weaning takes place around three months of age, at which stage the young begin to eat insects in addition to nursing. At two years of age, the offspring are sexually mature and are abandoned by the mother.[21]


See also: Pangolin trade

Pangolins are hunted and eaten in many parts of Africa and are one of the more popular types of bush meat, while local healers use the pangolin as a source of traditional medicine.[22] They are also in great demand in southern China and Vietnam because their meat is considered a delicacy and some believe that pangolin scales have medicinal qualities.[23][24][25][26] Over the past decade, over one million pangolins are believed to have been illegally trafficked, making it the most trafficked animal in the world.[27] This, coupled with deforestation, has led to a large decrease in the numbers of pangolins. Some species, such as Manis pentadactyla have become commercially extinct in certain ranges as a result of overhunting.[28] In November 2010, pangolins were added to the Zoological Society of London's list of genetically distinct and endangered mammals.[29] All eight species of pangolin are classified by the IUCN as threatened with extinction, while two are classified as critically endangered.[24][30]

Though pangolins are protected by an international ban on their trade, populations have suffered from illegal trafficking due to unfounded beliefs in East Asia that their ground-up scales can stimulate lactation or cure cancer or asthma.[31] In the past decade, numerous seizures of illegally trafficked pangolin and pangolin meat have taken place in Asia.[32][33][34][35] In one such incident in April 2013, 10,000 kg (11 short tons) of pangolin meat were seized from a Chinese vessel that ran aground in the Philippines.[36][37] In another case in August 2016, an Indonesian man was arrested after police raided his home and found over 650 pangolins in freezers on his property.[38] The same threat is reported in many countries in Africa, especially Nigeria, where the animal is on the verge of extinction due to over exploitation.[39]


As a result of increasing threats to pangolins, mainly in the form of illegal, international trade in pangolin skin, scales, and meat, these species have received increasing conservation attention in recent years. For example, in 2014, the IUCN recategorised all eight species of pangolin on its Red List of Threatened Species, and each species is now properly listed as being threatened with extinction.[40] Also, the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group launched a global action plan to conserve pangolins, dubbed Scaling up Pangolin Conservation in July 2014. This action plan aims to improve all aspects of pangolin conservation with an added emphasis on combating poaching and trafficking of the animal, while educating communities in its importance.[27]

Many attempts have been made to reproduce pangolins in captivity, but due to their reliance on wide-ranging habitats and very particular diets, these attempts are often unsuccessful.[20] They are susceptible to diseases such as pneumonia and the development of ulcers in captivity, complications which can lead to an early death.[20] In addition, pangolins rescued from illegal trade often have a higher chance of being infected with parasites such as intestinal worms, further lessening their chance for rehabilitation and reintroduction to the wild.[20] Recently, researchers have been able to improve artificial pangolin habitats to allow for reproduction of pangolins, providing some hope for future reintroduction of these species into their natural habitats.[5]

The third Saturday in February is promoted as World Pangolin Day by the conservation NPO Annamiticus.[41]


Pangolins were formerly[when?] classified with various other orders, for example Xenarthra, which includes the ordinary anteaters, sloths, and the similar-looking armadillos. Newer genetic evidence, however, indicates their closest living relatives are the Carnivora with which they form the clade Ferae.[42][43] Some palaeontologists, placing Ernanodonta in a separate suborder of Cimolesta near Pholidota,[44] have classified the pangolins in the order Cimolesta, together with several extinct groups indicated (†) below, though this idea has fallen out of favor since cimolestids have been determined to have not been placental mammals.[45] A 2015 study has supported close affinities between pangolins and the extinct group Creodonta, as well as many former Cimolestans (Cimolestes itself was recovered as a far more basal mammal).[46]

Until recently, all species of living pangolin had been assigned to the genus Manis. Recent research has supported the splitting of extant pangolins into three genera: Manis, Phataginus, and Smutsia.[1][47]


 Eulipotyphla (hedgehogs, shrews, moles, solenodons)


 Chiroptera (bats and flying foxes)


 Pholidota (pangolins)

 Carnivora (cats, hyenas, dogs, bears, seals)   


 Euarchontoglires (primates, colugos, treeshrews, rodents, rabbits)

  • ORDER PHOLIDOTAsensu lato (Pholidotamorpha)[48][49][50][47]
    • Suborder Palaeanodonta Matthew 1918
    • Pholidota sensu stricto


  1. ^ abcdGaudin, Timothy (28 August 2009). "The Phylogeny of Living and Extinct Pangolins (Mammalia, Pholidota) and Associated Taxa: A Morphology Based Analysis"(PDF). Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 16 (4): 235–305. doi:10.1007/s10914-009-9119-9. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  2. ^Goode, Emilia (31 March 2015). "A Struggle to Save the Scaly Pangolin". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
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  4. ^Judy Pearsall, ed. (2002). Concise Oxford English Dictionary (10th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 1030. ISBN 0-19-860572-2. 
  5. ^ abYu, Jingyu; Jiang, Fulin; Peng, Jianjun; Yin, Xilin; Ma, Xiaohua (Oct 2015). "The First Birth and Survival of Cub in Captivity of Critically Endangered Malayan Pangolin (Mariis javanica)". Agricultural Science & Technology. 16 (10) – via EBSCO. 
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  9. ^Chan, Lap-Ki (1995). "Extrinsic Lingual Musculature of Two Pangolins (Pholidota: Manidae)". Journal of Mammalogy. American Society of Mammalogists. 76 (2): 472–480. doi:10.2307/1382356. JSTOR 1382356. 
  10. ^ abcdeMondadori, Arnoldo, ed. (1988). Great Book of the Animal Kingdom. New York: Arch Cape Press. p. 252. ISBN 978-0517667910. 
  11. ^Mohapatra, R.K.; Panda, S. (2014). "Behavioural descriptions of Indian pangolins (Manis crassicaudata) in captivity". International Journal of Zoology. 2014: 1–7. doi:10.1155/2014/795062. 
  12. ^Grosshuesch, Craig (2012). "Rollin' With the Pangolin - Diet". University of Wisconsin–La Crosse. Archived from the original on 22 February 2015. 
  13. ^ abRose, Kd; Gaudin, Tj (2001). eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. doi:10.1002/9780470015902.a0001556.pub2. ISBN 9780470015902. 
  14. ^Coulson, Ian M; Heath, Martha E (Dec 1997). "Foraging behaviour and ecology of the Cape pangolin (Manis temminckii) in north-western Zimbabwe". African Journal of Ecology. 35 (4). doi:10.1111/j.1365-2028.1997.101-89101.x – via EBSCO. 
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  18. ^Donald R. Prothero (15 November 2016). The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals. Princeton University Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-4008-8445-2. 
  19. ^Grosshuesch, Craig (2012). "Rollin' With the Pangolin - Reproduction". University of Wisconsin–La Crosse. Archived from the original on 22 February 2015. 
  20. ^ abcdGong, Shiping; Hua, Liushuai; Wang, Fumin; Li, Weiye; Ge, Yan; Li, Xiaonan; Hou, Fanghui (2015-08-06). "Captive breeding of pangolins: current status, problems and future prospects". ZooKeys. 507: 99–114. doi:10.3897/zookeys.507.6970. ISSN 1313-2970. PMC 4490220. PMID 26155072. 
  21. ^Dickman, Christopher R. (1984). MacDonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 780–781. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 
  22. ^Boakye, Maxwell Kwame; Pietersen, Darren William; Kotzé, Antoinette; Dalton, Desiré-Lee; Jansen, Raymond (2015-01-20). "Knowledge and uses of African pangolins as a source of traditional medicine in Ghana". PLOS ONE. 10 (1): e0117199. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117199. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 4300090. PMID 25602281. 
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A coat of armor made of gilded pangolin scales from India, an unusual object, was presented to George III in 1820.

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