Black-bellied Pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla)
This is the smallest (in body size) species of African pangolin, with individuals averaging 85–110 cm in length and weighing up to 3.5 kg (although usually weighing 1–2 kg). The tail can measure up to 60 cm long. It is virtually entirely arboreal and diurnal, and is probably the most habitat-specific of the four African pangolin species. It is readily identifiable by its small body size and very long tail. Unlike the White-bellied Pangolin, the Black-bellied Pangolin has large scales which are often a rich ochre colour with dark borders. The skin is black, contrasting with the ochre scales and resulting in this species arguably being the most beautiful pangolin species. It occurs at low densities in swamp forests in West and Central Africa, but is also rarely found in tropical forests. It is considered to be semi-aquatic in parts of its range, especially where it co-occurs with the White-bellied Pangolin, and is also more arboreal than the White-bellied Pangolin. This species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List
, with a population that is believed to be decreasing.
Very little is known about this rare pangolin species. It is an arboreal species that is most often found in tropical riverine and swamp forests usually close to water, but occasionally found in tropical lowland forests away from water. Although almost strictly arboreal it may become semi-aquatic, especially where it occurs alongside the White-bellied Pangolin. It is the most diurnal African pangolin species, with individuals resting in tree hollows and dense foliage at night.
Virtually nothing is known of the breeding biology of this species. Females have been recorded giving birth to a single pup after a gestation period of 140 days, and probably give birth to a single pup each year.
The black-bellied pangolin is believed to be strictly myrmecophagous (ant- and termite-eating), possibly specialising on arboreal ant species. The exact species that it preys on have not been recorded yet.
Poaching for the bushmeat and Traditional African Medicine markets pose a major threat to this species. Scales of this species have been detected in a number of international smuggling cases in the past few years, indicating that it is being hunted for both the local and international markets. Habitat destruction also poses a major threat to this species.
It is patchily distributed in Central and West Africa, occurring from Sierra Leone to Ghana, with an apparent gap in its distribution before it reappears in Central Africa, where it occurs from Nigeria to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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