How do pangolins multiply



What do pangolins look like?

At first glance, one might mistake a pangolin for a reptile: its body covered by scales and the long, thin tongue are really unusual for a mammal.

The pangolin has a strong, streamlined body. From the snout to the bottom, the animals measure 30 to 67 centimeters, depending on their age, plus the 37 to 59 centimeters long tail. Depending on their size, they weigh between three and 17 kilograms. Male pangolins weigh almost twice as much as females.

The most noticeable feature is the scale armor. It extends from the head over the back and sides to the outside of the legs and even covers the entire tail. The individual scales, which are dark brown to yellow-gray in color, are wider than they are long and become larger and larger towards the end of the body. The scales are made of keratin. This is the horn-like substance that our hair and fingernails are made of. The tail, which is completely covered by scales, distinguishes the ground-dwelling pangolin from the pangolin species that also live on trees: the tip of the tail is free from scales. Only on the belly does the pangolin have no scales, here the brown skin is covered by short, brown hair.

The seven and a half to nine centimeters long head of the animals is triangular and goes directly into the body without a neck. The nose is darker or the same color as the body.

The eyes are small, outer ears are missing, but the large, often hair-covered ear openings can be seen. Pangolins have no teeth, just a very long, thin tongue. You have an excellent sense of smell.

The four legs are short, the front legs are only 60 percent of the length of the rear legs. All legs have five toes with strong claws. Most noticeable are the curved, sharp claws on the middle toes of the forelegs: they become five to six centimeters long.

Where do pangolins live?

The pangolin is at home in eastern and southern Africa and has the largest range of all African pangolins. His homeland extends over many parts of the country: Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Chad, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Ethiopia and East Africa.

The pangolin lives in savannahs, in the bush-lined grasslands and also in open forests. It feels at home in flooded areas and in rocky terrain up to an altitude of 1700 meters. And it even occurs on agricultural land.

What types of pangolins are there?

The pangolin belongs to the pangolin family. These form their own order in the animal kingdom and have no close relatives. Pangolins are only found in Africa and Asia. They are not related to the armadillos of America, with which they are sometimes confused.

There are three genera in the pangolin family: Manis (Asian pangolin), Phataginus (tree-dwelling pangolin in Africa) and the genus Smutsia, to which the pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) belongs. Its closest relative is the giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea). This lives in West and Central Africa.

How old do pangolins get?

It is not yet known how old pangolins can get in the wild.


How do pangolins live?

Pangolins are solitary and mostly hang out on the ground, but are also good swimmers. They usually only walk on their hind legs. The head swings back and forth, the tail serves as a counterweight to the front body and head. The animals usually only use their front legs by supporting themselves lightly. It is believed that this way they protect their sharp claws, which they need to dig. However, pangolins cannot dig as well as the rest of the pangolins. To sleep and rest, they do not dig their own cave in the ground, but use the burrows of other animals, for example those of aardvarks and jumping hares.

Pangolins only wake up towards evening and then search for food until midnight. Only young animals can be seen in the afternoon. They are probably out early to avoid nocturnal predators. Since their scale armor is not as hard as that of the older animals, they are much more defenseless against their enemies.

Adult animals usually stay in a fixed area for years. These areas are called action areas and not territories, as is the case with other animals, since pangolins do not actively defend their area. However, they mark their territory by slightly digging up the ground with their claws and marking it with urine. Then they roll around in the loosened soil. So they set more scent marks when they wander through the undergrowth.

Friends and enemies of the pangolin

The pangolin's enemies include predators such as lions, leopards, and hyenas. Sometimes they also fall prey to a honey badger or a crocodile. If danger threatens, the animals curl up in a ball by sticking their heads through their hind legs. The head is protected with the help of the tail. Because their scales are very hard and sharp, it is then difficult for predators to get at the prey.

A far greater danger, however, is humans. In their homeland, pangolins are heavily hunted: On the one hand, the meat is coveted as a delicacy, on the other hand, traditional medicine men still use the scales and other parts of the body to cure diseases. In East and Southeast Asia, the scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

How do pangolins multiply?

During mating, which takes around 30 minutes, males and females intertwine their long tails. After about 140 days of gestation, a young - only very rarely twins - is born. The baby is 15 to 18 centimeters long at birth, weighs between 340 and 425 grams and is suckled by the mother. The eyes are open, the scales are soft and only get harder after a few days. The little one spends the first few weeks in construction. If the mother changes the burrow, the young rides on the base of the mother's tail. In the event of danger, the mother rolls around her young.

After four to five weeks, the little one starts to eat solid food, but is also suckled. It leaves the burrow alone and eats in the immediate vicinity. Little by little, his trips get bigger and bigger. At the age of four months, the mother stops suckling the young. At the age of one year, a pangolin weighs around 3.5 kilograms and is no longer carried by its mother.

When the young are old enough, they move around and look for their own area. They cover many kilometers in just a few days.

How do pangolins communicate?

Pangolins communicate with each other primarily via scent brands that they set in their areas. When in danger, they sometimes make growling noises.


What do pangolins eat?

The pangolin has a very special diet: It feeds mainly on ants and termites. The animals have very specific preferences depending on the region, that is, they only eat very specific species of ants and termites. Mostly, pangolins eat the larvae and eggs of ants and termites, more rarely adult animals.

In search of food, pangolins wander across the ground with their heads bowed. If they smell ants or termites, they dig about four to seven centimeters deep or break open the termite burrows to get to their prey and pick them up with their long, sticky tongue.

Pangolins use water sources for drinking or they dig small holes in which rainwater collects.

Keeping pangolins

Since pangolins have very specific nutritional requirements, they can hardly be kept in zoos.

The pangolin is on the red list of threatened species. The stocks are falling sharply. This is due, on the one hand, to the fact that the animals are hunted and poached very heavily, and on the other hand to electric fences that protect wild animal farms and grazing animals and in which the pangolins are killed. The species is now protected by the Washington Convention on the Protection of Species, and trade in the animals or their body parts, such as scales, is prohibited.