TOPICS: Endangered pangolins

A total of 8 species (4 in Africa and 4 in Asia) of pangolin are found in the world, according to WWF (World Wildlife Fund).

While Nepal harbors only 2 species of pangolin: Indian (Manis crassicaudata) and Chinese Pangolin (Manis Pentadactyla).

These are called “Salak” in Nepali.

The Indian pangolin (red pangolin) has been recorded from Parsa and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve , Chitwan and Bardiya National Park and the Chinese pangolin (black pangolin) from Makalu Barun, Annapurna Conservation Area, Baglung, Kirtipur, Sundarijal, Panauti, Rammechhap.

Interestingly Chinese pangolin is reported to have been found up to tree line (i.e. up to 4100 m).

Pangolins are ant eating mammals bearing scaly body, so they are also called spiny ant eaters. Moreover, the word pangolin means curl up. It curls up if it discerns some threats to it.

This animal is nocturnal, non-aggressive and elusive in nature.

Its dorsal body part bear scales while ventral parts bear hair. It doesn’t bear external ears. Though terrestrial, it is a good climber. Its nail is so strong that it can easily make a hole of 7-8 feet in a minute.

The pangolin enters the hole and it conceals itself with the loose earth through its moistening mouth, making detection difficult. They produce 1 (rarely 2) baby during March to May.

They mark their territory (usually of about 2 mile square) by urinating on bushes and buried holes. The female follows the male by smelling it (i.e. urine). The female bears mammary glands and a pod around urethra.

These pods bear good scent which helps in sex determination. Even though it does not bear teeth; it easily feeds on ants, termites and their eggs through their moistened mouth.

These have an important ecological role in pest control.

They’re now one of the most trafficked mammals in Asia. There are two main drivers for this trade: demand in restaurants for wild meat and use in traditional Asian medicine.

They are poached for trade in skin. They are hunted for meat (as sex stimulant) and as ornaments (using their scales).

Effective anti poaching program forming community based monitoring groups along with effective CITES program, provision of captive breeding programme along with effective research programs and implementing a suitable management of open forests including restrictions on wildfires, grazing and soil mining in key areas are urgently needed.