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Tree pangolin

tree pangolin, tree pangolin animal planet
The tree pangolin Phataginus tricuspis is one of eight extant species of pangolins "scaly anteaters", and is native to equatorial Africa Also known as the white-bellied pangolin or three-cusped pangolin, it is the most common of the African forest pangolins


  • 1 Description
  • 2 Taxonomy
  • 3 Range and habitat
  • 4 Behavior
  • 5 Diet
  • 6 Reproduction
  • 7 Economic uses
  • 8 References


P tricuspis is a relatively small pangolin The combined head and body length is 33–43 cm 13–17 in The tail is 49–62 cm 19–24 in Each scale has three points, to which the specific name tricuspis refers The head is small, and the snout is elongated The feet are short, and each foot has five long curved claws


The tree pangolin had belonged to the genus Manis and subgenus Phataginus before Phataginus was elevated to generic status Two subspecies were recognized in 1972 by Meester:

  • P t tricuspis
  • P t mabirae
A tree pangolin skeleton on display at The Museum of Osteology

Range and habitat

The tree pangolin ranges from Guinea through Sierra Leone and much of West Africa to Central Africa as far east as extreme southwestern Kenya and northwestern Tanzania To the south, it extends to northern Angola and northwestern Zambia It has been found on the Atlantic island of Bioko, but no records confirm a presence in Senegal, Gambia, or Guinea-Bissau

The tree pangolin is semiarboreal and generally nocturnal It is found in lowland tropical moist forests both primary and secondary, as well as savanna/forest mosaics It probably adapts to some degree to habitat modification, as it favours cultivated and fallow land where it is not aggressively hunted eg, abandoned or little-used oil palm trees in secondary growth


Climbing a tree

The tree pangolin can walk on all fours or on its hind legs using its prehensile tail for balance It can climb up trees in the absence of branches When walking on all fours, it walks on its front knuckles with its claws tucked underneath to protect them from wearing down Its anal scent glands disperse a foul secretion much like a skunk when threatened It has a well-developed sense of smell, but as a nocturnal animal, it has poor eyesight Instead of teeth, it has a gizzard-like stomach full of stones and sand it ingests The tree pangolin in Africa fills its stomach with air before entering water to aid in buoyancy for well-developed swimming

The tree pangolin has many adaptations When threatened, it rolls up into a ball, protecting itself with its thick skin and scales Its scales cover its entire body except for the belly, snout, eyes, ears, and undersides of the limbs When a mother with young is threatened, she rolls up around the young, which also roll into a ball While in a ball, she can extend her scales and make a cutting action by using muscles to move the scales back and forth She makes an aggressive huff noise when threatened, but that is the extent of her noise-making


The tree pangolin eats insects such as ants and termites from their nests, or the armies of insects moving on the trees It relies on its thick skin for protection, and digs into burrows with its long, clawed forefeet It eats between 5 and 7 ounces 150 to 200 g of insects a day The pangolin uses its 10- to 27-in 250- to 700-mm tongue which is coated with gummy mucus to funnel the insects into its mouth The tongue is actually sheathed in the chest cavity all the way to the pelvic area


Female pangolin territories are solitary and small, less than 10 acres 4 ha, and they rarely overlap Males have larger territories, up to 60 acres 24 ha, which overlap many female territories, resulting in male/female meetings These meetings are brief unless the female is in estrus, when mating occurs Gestation of young lasts 150 days, and one young per birth is normal The young pangolin is carried on its mother's tail until it is weaned after three months, but it remains with its mother for five months in total At first, the newborn's scales are soft, but, after a few days, they start to harden

Economic uses

The tree pangolin is subject to widespread and often intensive exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine, and is by far the most common of the pangolins found in African bushmeat markets Conservationists believe this species underwent a decline of 20-25% between 1993 and 2008 three pangolin generations due mainly to the impact of the bushmeat hunting They assert it continues to be harvested at unsustainable levels in some of its range, and by 2008 had elevated its status from "Least Concern" to "Near Threatened"


  1. ^ Schlitter, DA 2005 "Order Pholidota" In Wilson, DE; Reeder, DM Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd ed Johns Hopkins University Press p 531 ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0 OCLC 62265494 
  2. ^ Waterman C, Pietersen D, Soewu D, Hywood L, Rankin P 2014 "Phataginus tricuspis" The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species IUCN 2014: eT12767A45223135 doi:102305/IUCNUK2014-2RLTST12767A45223135en Retrieved 15 January 2018 CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link
  3. ^ a b Gaudin, 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:101007/s10914-009-9119-9 Retrieved 14 May 2015 
  4. ^ Rafinesque CS 1821 Ann Sci Phys Brux 7: 215 Obsolete synonyms: M multiscutata Gray, 1843; M tridentata Focillon, 1850
  5. ^ Allen and Loveridge, 1942
  6. ^ Tree pangolins are native to parts of Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia They may be present in Burundi
  7. ^ Pangolin Specialist Group 2008 Phataginus tricuspis In: IUCN 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Retrieved 1 January 2009

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