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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Sunda Pangolin

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Family : Manidae
Species : Manis javanica

Head-body length : Up to 65 cm
Tail length : Up to 56 cm
Weight : typically up to 10 kg

The Sunda Pangolin, also known as the Malayan or Javan Pangolin, is a curious, unmistakable inhabitant of Southeast Asia's forested habitats (primary, secondary, scrub forest) and plantations (rubber, palm oil).

Its other common name is Scaly Anteater: it feeds wholly on ants and termites, which it locates by its strong sense of smell. It possesses thick, powerful claws which it uses to dig into the soil in search of ant nests or to tear into termite mounds. The insects are gathered with its long, sticky tongue and swallowed whole - the pangolin has no need for teeth. It is estimated that on average a pangolin might eat around 200,000 ants or termites per day.

Its body is covered by rows of scales which are formed by a compressed, fibrous hair-like material. The belly, however, lack scales and the animal thus protects its soft underparts by rolling into a ball when feeling threatened.

Nocturnal in habits, the Sunda Pangolin will rest by day in burrows and tree holes. The species is also an adept climber, aided by its prehensile tail : it is also known to hide by day amongst the foliage of large epiphytes such as the Bird's Nest Fern.

One or two young are raised, and the infants are carried astride the base of the mother's tail until such time as they are independent.

The Sunda Pangolin ranges from Myanmar, Thailand and Indochina through Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to Borneo, Sumatra and Java. It is widely poached for its scales, and as a result is critically endangered.

Fig 1 : Juvenile from lowland, secondary forest : the Sunda Pangolin is an expert climber.

Fig 2 : A fully grown Sunda Pangolin is disturbed whilst digging in loose soil.

Fig 3 : Foraging in the forest on a rainy afternoon.

Fig 4 : Large juvenile, clinging to its parent's tail. Photo thanks to Connor Butler.

Fig 5 : Rolled into a defensive ball.

Fig 6 : Detail of the interleaved rows of scales.

All photos from Singapore.

References : M1, M2, M3



Fig 4
ゥ  Connor Butler

Fig 5

Fig 6