White-bellied Pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis)

This small, arboreal species is quite widespread and is also the species most frequently encountered. The body is covered in numerous small scales, with each scale having three small projecting points when new (hence the species name 'tricuspis'). The scales are grey to light brown, and the belly and bare skin is white. Adults are small, averaging 60-105 cm in length, with the tail contributing about half of this length. They have a maximum mass of only 3 kg, although averaging 1–2 kg. 

They frequently come to ground while foraging or when crossing open patches, but quickly ascend the nearest tree when disturbed. They prefer tropical lowland forests in Central and West Africa, but are also found in secondary forest, abandoned palm plantations and moist woodland. This species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with a population that is rapidly declining due to its prevalence in domestic and international trade.

  • White-bellied pangolins are the most frequently of the four African pangolin species, but they are by no means common. They are most readily found in moist tropical lowland forests, but are also frequently found in secondary forests, forest-savanna mosaics, dense woodlands and sometimes abandoned oil palm stands. They are semi-arboreal and predominantly nocturnal. Male home ranges may be as large as 30 hectares (0.3 km2), while female home ranges average 3-4 hectares (0.03-0.04 km2).

  • Very little is known about the reproductive biology of this species. Females give birth to a single pup after a gestation period of about 150 days. The pup is carried on the base of the mother's tail until it is old enough to fend for itself. Some authors believe that reproduction is continuous, although it is more likely that females give birth to a single young each year.

  • This species is believed to eat exclusively ants and termites, with ants probably constituting the bulk of the diet. No information is available with regards to the specific species eaten. Some authors are of the opinion that terrestrial termites form the bulk of the diet with arboreal termites forming a secondary prey source, although there are still too few observations to verify this. Most of the foraging activity apparently occurs on the ground, and males and young individuals appear to be particularly prone to terrestrial activity and foraging.

  • Although once widespread, its prevalence in local bushmeat and traditional medicine markets, and increasingly in international trade, has resulted in this species rapidly decreasing in abundance in recent years. Habitat loss and modification has also played a major role.

  • This species remains widespread in West and Central Africa, marginally entering East Africa and southern Africa.

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