pangolin at Brookfield Zoo

White-Bellied Pangolin

Phataginus tricuspis


world pangolin day

World Pangolin Day - February 17

Every year World Pangolin Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of February.  In 2018 World Pangolin Day will be celebrated on Sunday, February 17. Stop by Brookfield Zoo for a special Pangolin Zoo Chat at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday!

For more information on how you can help please follow these conservation links:

Quick Facts
Body Length: 23.6 in.-41.3 in., with the tail comprimising approximately half of the body length
Weight: Average 2 lbs.-4.4 lbs, but can be as heavy as 6.6 lbs. 
Lifespan: Wild: not known, Captivity: 13+ years
Breeding Age: Not known. However, females are thought to reach sexual maturity when they reach a length of approximately 31.9 in.
Breeding Season: Not known, but though to be year-round
Wild diet: Thought to be exclusively ants and termites
BZ Diet: An insect-based complete diet made at the zoo: the product is a combination of four different species of insect/larvae, which are ground to a powder and mixed with fiber and fat products, along with vitamin and mineral supplements. Then agar is dissolved in water and added to the dry ingredients and mixed. The agar is a gelatinous substance obtained from various kinds of red seaweed and used in biological culture media and as  thickener in foods. 
Distribution:  Equatorial Africa 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, their range extends to norther Angola and northwestern Zambia. They have also been found on the Atlantic island of Bioko.
Habitat: Predominantly in moist tropical lowland forests and secondary growth, but also in dense woodlands, especially along water courses
Predators: Humans, African golden cats and other felids

Scaly Anteater

The white-bellied pangolin is an interesting animal! It looks like a cross between an anteater and an armadilo, although it it not closely realated to either of them! White-bellied pangolins mostly live in Africa in moist, tripocal lowland forests. The like to feast on ants and termites, which might lead people to think they're just scaly anteaters.

The Senses:

White-bellied pangolins have poor vision, but good hearing (even though they do not have external ears) and a well-developed sense of smell. They rely upon their hearing and sense of smell when searching for food.


White-bellied pangolins are predominantly nocturnal and semi-arboreal (spending part of their time in trees and part of their time on the ground). They frequently cross open areas, and also forage, on the ground, but they will quickly climb up an available tree if they feel threatened or disturbed.

They can walk on all fours, or on their hind legs by using their tails for balance. When walking on all fours, they walk on their front knuckles with their claws tucked underneath to protect them from wearing down.

They are also able to swim well.  Before entering the water, they will fill their stomachs with air to make themselves more buoyant.

When threatened they may secrete a foul-smelling liquid from their anal scent glands (much like a skunk). They will also roll into a ball and rely upon their thick skins and scales to provide protection.

When a mother with young is threatened, she will roll up around the young, which also rolls into a ball. While in a ball, she can extend her scales and move her scales back and forth to make a cutting action. She may also make an aggressive-sounding “huff” noise.

Breeding Behavior:

It is thought that white-bellied pangolins can reproduce at any time during the year.

Females are solitary and have territories that are typically smaller than 10 acres and rarely overlap. Males have larger territories, up to 60 acres, which typically overlap with several female territories and result in male/female encounters. These encounters are brief unless the female is in estrous, which is when mating occurs.

Gestation lasts approximately 150 days. Females typically give birth to 1 offspring. Giving birth to 2 offspring is not unknown, but is very uncommon.

Natural History of Young:

Newborns weigh approximately .7 oz. (.44 lbs.) -1.1 lbs. Its scales are soft at birth, but begin to harden within a few days.

The mother carries her young on her tail until it is weaned at approximately 3 months of age.  After it has been weaned, the young remains with its mother for around another 2 months.
Feeding Strategy:

After locating an anthill or termite mound, white-bellied pangolins tear the mound open with their powerful front claws. They will then use their long tongues to probe inside the tunnels and funnel their prey into their mouths. They have glands in their chests that lubricate their tongues with sticky mucous to capture the prey. While they are probing, they can close their nostrils and ear openings to protect against bites.

They typically eat 5 oz.-7 oz. of ants and termites per day.


Male white-bellied pangolins are typically slightly larger than females.

White-bellied pangolins have small pointed heads with thick eyelids that protect their eyes from bites from the ants and termites on which they feed.

They have long tongues that are anchored to a point on the pelvis and which they can extend to around 9.8 in. They do not have teeth but they ingest small stones and sand that grind food in their gizzard-like stomachs.

Their bodies are covered by tough three-cusped keratin scales except for most of their faces, their undersides and the inside surfaces of their legs. Their scales range in color from dark brown to russet to brownish yellow and typically comprise around 15% of their body weight.

They have large curved claws which they use when climbing trees and when attacking anthills and termite mounds.

They have long broad prehensile tails which are bare at the tips (which assists in gripping). 

Status in the Wild

White-bellied pangolins are subject to widespread and intensive exploitation for bushmeat; they are the most common of the pangolins found in African bushmeat markets. In addition, a large number of the pangolins are sold for traditional medicine and cultural practices. Habitat loss and degradation are quite possibly additional threats, especially in west Africa.
The extent of these threats, when combined with the relatively slow reproduction rate of the pangolins, is thought to significantly threaten their viability.  However, research to date has not been sufficiently extensive to be conclusive.

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