The tree pangolin, manis tricuspis, may look like an armadillo, but is not related to them at all. They measure 23 to 68 inches (58 to 176 centimeters) long from head to tail, and weigh 3.7 to 5.3 pounds (1.8 to 2.4 kilograms). They are covered in overlapping scales which can be dark brown to dark olive brown, pale olive or yellowish brown in color. The scales feel similar to that of human fingernails, have three sharp points, and cover all parts of the body except the snout, eyes, ears and belly. These body parts instead have soft, pale hairs. A tree pangolin goes by many other names such as the scaly anteater as well as the small-scaled tree and three-cusped pangolin.
The tree pangolin can be found in the rainforests of west to central Africa. They are solitary creatures, only coming together when it is time to breed. They will mark their territories secretions produced by their anal glands. They are good tree climbers, with their tails allowing them to easily grip branches. Whenever this animal is strolling, it will curls its claws underneath its feet and proceed to walk on its knuckles. They are nocturnal creatures, resting during the day and going out to find food at night. Females will spend 3 to 4 hours a night looking for food while males will forage for up to 10 hours.
The diet of a tree pangolin consists mainly of ants and termites. They will use their keen sense of smell to locate an ant or termite nest and then use their strong front legs and sharp claws to rip tear it open. They will then use their long, sticky tongue to slurp up the insects and swallow them whole (since they have no teeth). They will also swallow pebbles and the like to help grind the food once it is in their stomachs. To protect themselves from angry ants and termites, they will close their ears and nostrils (they have thick eyelids that protect their eyes). Common predators of the tree pangolin include leopards, pythons and hyenas. To defend themselves, they will curl up into tight balls (their tails wrap around their soft under parts) that are almost impossible to unroll. The sharp scales are enough to deter most attackers. They may also spray their enemies with foul smelling liquid (much like a skunk does) to keep them away.
During the breeding season, males will “announce” their availability by depositing feces, marking trees with urine and/or their foul smelling secretion. Females will give birth to a single offspring (sometimes more) after a gestation period of around 150 days and raise the little one alone. The newborn is unable to walk for the first few weeks of its life and will instead cling to its mother’s tail and move around with her. The young ones are weaned at 4 months old and will become independent when they reach about 5 months of age. It is unknown how long this creature lives in the wild, but they have been known to live as long as 13 years in captivity.
The tree pangolin is listed as “Least Concern’, although they are facing a few immediate threats. The loss of their natural habitat as well as hunting by humans for their meat and scales all pose a problem for them. Hopefully, these animals can overcome such obstacles and continue avoid facing the possibility of extinction. After all, such a unique pangolin species deserves to live and prosper for future generations to see.
“Mammals: Tree Pangolin” 27 June 2011
“Tree Pangolin” 27 June 2011
“Tree Pangolin” 27 June 2011