How Many Types Of Pangolins Are There? Why Are These Animals Dying?

There are 8 species of pangolins living in the world today, and all of them are threatened to some extent.

Pangolins are mammals belonging to the order Pholidota that has only one extant family, Manidae, that can be sub-divided into three genera. Four extant species of pangolins belonging to the genera Manis inhabit Asia. Two species each belonging to the genera Phataginus and Smutsia live in Africa. All species of pangolins are threatened as mentioned below.

9. Long-tailed Pangolin -

The long-tailed pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) is an arboreal pangolin species that is native to parts of central and western Africa. Within their native range, the pangolins are found in swamp forests and moist, tropical riverine forests. The pangolins spend a major part of their life-cycle in the canopy region of the rainforests and are also efficient swimmers.

The long-tailed pangolin is a vulnerable species as classified by the IUCN. These animals are indiscriminately hunted for bushmeat and traditional medicines. 

8. Cape Ground Pangolin -

The Cape pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), is one of the four types of pangolins found in Africa. The range of this pangolin spreads across 15 African countries in southern, eastern, and central parts of the continent. The Cape pangolin is completely myrmecophagous, meaning it feeds exclusively on termites and ants.

The giant ground pangolin though once found in large numbers in Africa, is today a vulnerable species that has experienced a 30 to 40% reduction in numbers over a period of 27 years.

7. Giant Ground Pangolin -

The giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) is one of the eight types of pangolins that live in Africa with a range stretching from West Africa to Uganda. It is the largest extant species of pangolin in the world. Ants and termites are the only sources of food for these creatures. Within its range, the giant pangolin inhabits rainforest and savanna habitats.

Habitat destruction and deforestation coupled with hunting for bushmeat and traditional medicine preparation are the biggest threats to the survival of this species of pangolin. The giant pangolin is thus classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.

6. African White-bellied Pangolin -

Another one of the eight types of pangolins, the tree pangolin or the African white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) is native to the forests of equatorial Africa. Within its range, the pangolin inhabits savanna/forest mosaics as well as lowland tropical moist forests. The animal is generally nocturnal and semiarboreal by nature.

The pangolin is subjected to intensive exploitation for traditional medicines and bushmeat. It is the most common pangolin species sold in African bushmeat markets. Between the years 1993 and 2008, bushmeat hunting has decreased the population of the tree pangolin by 20 to 25%. This has shifted the conservation status of these pangolins from Least Concern to Near Threatened.

5. Philippine Pangolin -

The Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) is endemic to the Palawan province in the Philippines. Here, it inhabits the primary and secondary forests as well as the grasslands around these forests. The animal is reclusive, solitary, and nocturnal by nature. They prefer to stay in trees but also forage on the ground.

The Philippine pangolin is an endangered species that is threatened due to both habitat loss in its native range and also poaching for its body parts.

4. Indian Pangolin -

The Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is found exclusively in some countries of the Indian sub-continent. It inhabits the hills and plains of India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. The species has big, overlapping body scales that protect it from harm. When threatened by large predators like tigers, the pangolin can curl itself up into a ball. The Indian pangolin is an insectivore and feeds primarily on ants and termites. The animal is known for its shy and solitary nature. The pangolin, unlike the African counterparts, does not climb trees.

The Indian pangolin, like other pangolin species, is hunted for its meat and body parts for use in traditional medicine. Though the pangolin is protected by Indian law and hunting, it is illegal in the country, and poaching activities continue to threaten the lives of these animals. Nomads and local hunters carry out most of these poaching activities and then the animals are heavily trafficked to countries like China where a huge illegal market of pangolin body parts exist.

3. Malayan Pangolin -

The Malayan pangolin (Manis javanica), also called the Javan or the Sunda pangolin is found in many countries of Southeast Asia where its numbers have fallen greatly over the past few decades. The animal inhabits forested habitats within its range and spends a major part of their lives in trees. These pangolins have a granular skin on their feet, thick and powerful claws, a poor eyesight and a strong hearing sense. Scales and fibrous hair ensheath the body, and the sticky tongue helps in catching ants or termites. 

Like other pangolin species, the Malayan pangolin faces threat and is actually one of the most endangered pangolins of the world. The species is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN. It is hunted for scales, meat, skin. The pangolins’ body parts are used to prepare traditional medicines and clothing. Chinese buyers are primarily responsible for the decline of this species. Indigenous people also hunt the animal for meat consumption.

2. Chinese Pangolin -

The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is found in the countries of the Indian subcontinent including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. Its range stretches further east into Myanmar, China, and Taiwan. In its range, the Chinese pangolin inhabits bamboo, limestone, broadleaf, and coniferous forests. The pangolin feeds primarily on termites and ants as well as other invertebrates.

The Chinese pangolin is one of the most threatened among all species of pangolins and is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. The pangolin is indiscriminately hunted for its meat, scales, and claws. The meat of this species sells for prices as high as US$200/kg in China and Vietnam. The blood and scales of the pangolin are also in high demand for the preparation of Chinese traditional medicines. 

1. Conserving Pangolins -

Due to the ever-increasing threats to pangolins, these animals have received heightened conservation attention worldwide. In 2014, the IUCN properly listed all the pangolin species on the Red List of Threatened Species. A global action plan to protect the pangolins was launched by IUCN SSC on July 2014. Attempts have been made to breed pangolins in captivity, but due to the highly specialized diet of these species, the attempts have not been too successful. Captive breeding has also subjected the wild animals to diseases and early death. Researchers have thus taken steps to improve the artificial pangolin habitats to provide the captive pangolins a safe stay. Measures have also been taken on a global scale to stop the illegal trade in pangolin parts and efforts have been made to discourage public from using pangolin body parts for traditional medicines.

More in Environment