Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)

Range Description:

This species occurs in the Himalayan foothills in Eastern Nepal, Bhutan and Northern India, Northeastern Bangladesh, across Myanmar to northern Lao PDR and Northern Vietnam, Northern and Northeastern Thailand, and through southern China (South of the Chiangjiang) to Hainan and Taiwan. The limits of its range are poorly known, and complicated by high levels of exploitation. The species exists at high altitudes, especially in the Southern and Western parts of its range, possibly occurring at much lower altitudes in northeast. Its latitudinal range is thought likely to overlap considerably with that of Manis javanica, with Manis pentadactyla tending to occur in hills and mountains and the latter more generally found at lower altitudes, though recent interviews with in Vietnam suggest that the two species can be found in the same areas of forest, and that the differences between them are ecological, relating to diet and habitat use, rather than altitude (P. Newton pers. comm.).
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 Vietnam 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.).
Countries: Native:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; China; Hong Kong; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Vietnam


Virtually no information is available on population levels of any species of Asian pangolins. These species are rarely observed due to their secretive, solitary, and nocturnal habits, and there is not enough research on population densities or global population (WCMC et al. 1999; CITES 2000). There have been few documented records, and therefore there is very little information available on the population status anywhere in the species' range, but it appears to be decreasing over much of its range.

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 Vietnam (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 Vietnam, 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).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology:

This species is found in a wide range of habitats, including primary and secondary tropical forests, limestone forests, bamboo forests, grasslands and agricultural fields, and grasslands (Chao Jung-Tai 1989; Gurung 1996). The species digs its own burrows, or enlarges passages made by termites. Indications are that home range is relatively large, although concrete data are lacking (Heath and Vanderlip 1988). Hunters interviewed in Vietnam indicate that Manis pentadactyla digs its own, long burrows underground, which they use both to eat termites and in which to sleep (P. Newton pers. comm.). The main way in which they catch this species is to dig them out of these burrows, so this evidence is probably reliable (P. Newton pers. comm.).
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 Vietnam 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).
Systems: TerrestrialThe Chinese pangolin belongs to the burrowing family. It can dig up to 8 ft (2.5 m) deep in the ground with its strong and clawed forefeet, 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 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 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 stomach with the help of her tail. Male pangolins have been noticed to show extraordinary parental instinct and allow the female and baby share the burrow.
Chinese pangolins are rather secretive, nocturnal creatures. They move very slowly and are known for their non aggressive 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.

Major Threat(s):

Threats to Asian pangolins include rapid loss and deterioration of available habitat and hunting for local use and for international trade in skins, scales, and meat. Evidence suggests that pangolins, in general, are able to adapt to modified habitats (e.g., secondary forests), provided their termite food source remains abundant and they are not unduly persecuted. The species is intensively used, for its skin, meat and scales, and is evidently subject to heavy collection pressure in many parts of its range. The species may be harvested for local (i.e. national-level) use, or for international export either before or after processing. Observations in mainland Southeast Asia indicate that there is very heavy unofficial, or at least unrecorded, international trade in pangolins and pangolin products. The species trade levels are significant across its range, although precise estimates are unknown (CITES 2000).
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: 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 Vietnam (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 Vietnam, 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 (Vietnam, P. Newton pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions:

This species is listed on CITES Appendix II; a zero annual export quota has been established for specimens removed from the wild and traded for primarily commercial purposes. It is protected by national or sub national legislation in Bangladesh, China, India, Lao, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. This wide ranging species is present in some protected areas, but protected area designation alone is not sufficient to protect this species. Greater enforcement and management to prevent poaching in protected areas is urgently needed. Large seizures of illegal animals do occur, but the trade continues largely unabated.
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).