Sunda Pangolin
(Manis javanica)
Pangolins or scaly anteaters are a group of unusual mammals with tough, protective keratin scales. Specialised for feeding on ants and termites, they occupy a niche equivalent to that of the American anteaters. The Sunda pangolin possesses long, powerful claws, for ripping open ant and termite nests, and a long, thin, sticky tongue which can measure up to 40 cm in length, for scooping up its prey. The species is heavily hunted both within China and its other range states, for its meat, which is considered a delicacy, as well as for its skin and scales which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Pangolins rarely survive in captivity. It is crucial that conservation efforts focus on preventing poaching, ending illegal trade, and protecting the habitat of these imperilled animals.
Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; Indonesia; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Singapore; Thailand; Viet Nam.
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17th Nov 14
This week Angry Birds has teamed up with United for Wildlife to bring you a one off exclusive ‘Roll with the Pangolins’ tournament, aimed at raising awar...  Read

29th Jul 14
The pangolin is literally being eaten out of existence according to the latest IUCN Red List update which shows that all eight species are now threatened wit...  Read

19th Aug 13
Populations of the Sunda Pangolin, found in South East Asia, suffer severely at the hands of the illegal wildlife trade. Hunted for their meat and scales, re...  Read

7th Jul 13
EDGE Programme Manager, Carly Waterman, and EDGE Fellow, Ambika Khatiwada, attended the recent IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group Conservation Conference in ...  Read

24th Jun 13
Today (24th June) marks the start of the first ever global Pangolin conference organised by the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group and Wildlife Reserves Singapor...  Read

15th Feb 13
Saturday the 16th of February, World Pangolin Day 2013, marks a special date for two of our most charismatic yet most threatened EDGE species. Pangolins...  Read

12th Jul 12
Our Fellow Tran Quang Phuong is working as part of the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Programme (CPCP) team in Vietnam to fully rehabilitate and release...  Read

14th Jun 12
A previous blog and video introduced our Fellow Tran Quang Phuong who is working as part of the Carnivore and ...  Read

30th Apr 12
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18th Feb 12
Today, 18th February 2012, is World Pangolin Day so we hope you’ll join with us in celebrating these wonderfully weird little creatures. Pangolins, or ...  Read

19th Jan 12
My name is Tran Quang Phuong and I have just started an EDGE Fellowship working on the Sunda pangolin. I am interested in the conservation of small carnivore...  Read

Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Pholidota
Family: Manidae

Pangolins or scaly anteaters (order Pholidota, meaning “scaled animals”) are a group of unusual mammals with tough, protective keratin scales. The phylogenetic position of the Pholidota remains a disputed topic. Pangolins were once included together with the anteaters, sloths, armadillos and the African aardvark in the order Xenarthra (formerly Edentata), so named because of the lack of some or all of the teeth. It is now believed, however, that any morphological similarities between the pangolins and other ant-eating mammals are the results of parallel adaptations to a common way of life.


The ancestors of the pangolins are thought to have been members of the suborder Palaeanodonta, which diverged from the ancestral edentates some 60 million years ago. These small, armourless animals rapidly became extinct but their successors evolved into the order Pholidota. The fossil record implies that the ancestors of modern day pangolins colonized Africa before Asia, suggesting Asian pangolins evolved later than their African relatives.  


Today, the Pholidota is one of the smallest of the placental mammals, containing just one family, the Manidae, with eight living species. Four species are found in Africa and three in Southeast Asia. 

Head and body length: males approx 520 mm; females approx 450 mm
Weight: males approx 7.5 kg; females approx 4.2 kg
This species has a streamlined elongate body and tail covered with large (2-5 cm), rounded scales formed from fused hair. Scales range in colour from light yellow-brown to black and cover everywhere except ventral head, neck and trunk , and the inner surface of the limbs and foot pads. These animals roll into a ball in defence to protect these areas. They have a small pointed head and a narrow mouth. The fore-feet and hind feet are equipped with sharp claws.
The Sunda pangolin is nocturnal, solitary and a specialised feeder on ants and termites. It is most active in the early hours of the morning, between 3 and 6 am. It is an adept climber, and is thought to be more arboreal than the Chinese pangolin. Individuals often climb to access ant nests in trees, which they rip open with their strong fore-claws, before scooping up their prey with their long, sticky tongues. They sleep in hollows either in, or at the base of, trees, rather than excavating their own burrows in soil.

Little is known of the life history of this species, although inference from other species indicates that one young is born at a time, after a gestation period of around 178 days. The mothers care for their young for approximately 3-4 months. The home-range size is estimated as being 6.97 ha.
Found in primary and secondary forest, and in cultivated areas including gardens and plantations, including near human settlements.
Ranges over much of mainland Southeast Asia, from southern Myanmar through central and southern Lao PDR, much of Thailand, central and southern Vietnam, Cambodia, to Peninsular Malaysia, to Sumatra, Java and adjacent islands (Indonesia) to Borneo (Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei). The northern and western limits of its range are poorly known. It has been recorded from sea level up to 1,700 m asl.
Population Estimate
Unknown. Very little information is available on the population status of this secretive, solitary, nocturnal species.
Population Trend

Classified as Critically Endangered (A2d+3d+4d) on the 2014 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Hunting is the primary threat to the Sunda pangolin, with its meat, scales and skin being highly prized for food and traditional Chinese medicine. The species is subject to heavy collection pressure in many parts of its range. Its body parts are traded both nationally and internationally. Observations in mainland Southeast Asia indicate that there is very heavy unofficial, or at least unrecorded, international trade in pangolins and pangolin products. Wildlife authorities in Hai Phong, Vietnam seized 23 tons of pangolins (about 8000 animals) in just one week in February 2008, and Indonesian authorities confiscated about 14 tons of pangolins in Sumatra in July 2008. Pangolins fetch such high prices at market local, subsistence use for either meat or their scales has completely halted in favour or selling to the national/international trade. As a result populations have crashed in many parts of the species’ range.

Habitat destruction and degradation resulting from human activities may also be having a negative impact. Although the species has been reported to occur in secondary forest, evidence suggests that the availability of tree hollows, which is higher in undisturbed forest, is extremely important for this species.
Conservation Underway
This species is protected by CITES Appendix II, and by national legislation. It is found in protected areas in its range, but has been hunted out of some protected areas in its range, especially in Thailand. Much more effective enforcement of existing laws is critical for the conservation of this species. Some protected areas in Vietnam are heavily trapped for this and other species.

This project supports in-country EDGE Fellows to help conserve relevant EDGE species

Trade-confiscated pangolins are often released into protected areas with no monitoring and no, or inadequate, health checks. Many of these releases have involved Vietnam's wildlife confiscation authorities. There is no data to suggest that these animals survive post-release. Indeed, experience at the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program in Vietnam has shown that many trade-confiscated pangolins are nutritionally stressed, have injuries from hunting traps and need substantial rehabilitation. It is highly likely, therefore, that many of the released pangolins do not survive.

This project has been designed to develop nationally feasible, international standard release guidelines and protocols for trade-confiscated Sunda pangolins. The protocols will function as a blueprint for future releases and will raise awareness of the required steps in a successful release amongst Vietnam's confiscation authorities. This project will involve the complete rehabilitation, full health checks and monitored release of trade-confiscated Sunda pangolins. The release site will be in Cat Tien National Park and the pangolins will be monitored for a minimum of 10 months using VHF radio-telemetry.

This will be the first project of its kind in Vietnam and will produce a better national strategy for dealing with trade-confiscated Sunda pangolins that is highly beneficial to the conservation of this incredibly endangered mammal.

Conservation Proposed
While large seizures of illegally caught Sunda pangolins do occur, greater enforcement of laws and improved management to prevent poaching in protected areas are urgently needed.
Associated EDGE Community members

Phuong is a conservationist working on little known but highly threatened species of small carnivore and pangolin

Conservation geneticist: Wildgenes laboratory

I am a criminology graduate student. Research interests: Wildlife trade, illegal logging

Duckworth, J.W., Anak Pattanavibool, Newton, P. & Nguyen Van Nhuan 2008. Manis javanica. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 January 2010.

Lim, N. T. L. and Ng, P. K. L. (2007). Home range, activity cycle and natal den usage of female Sunda pangolin Manis javanica (Mammalia: Pholidota) in Singapore, Endangered Species Research, Vol. 3.

Nie, W. et al. 2009.Chromosomal Rearrangements Underlying Karyotype Differences Between Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and Malayan Pangolin (Manis javanica) Revealed by Chromosome Painting. Chromosome Research 17:321–329.

Newton, P., Nguyen Van, T., Roberton, S. and Bell, D. (2008). Pangolins in Peril: Using local hunters’ knowledge to conserve elusive species in Vietnam. Endangered Species Research, Vol. 6, 41-53.

Nguyen, V. T., Newton, P., Roberton, S., Bell, D and Clark, V. L. (2008). Tapping into local knowledge to help conserve pangolins in Vietnam. Proceedings of the workshop on trade and conservation of pangolins native to South and Southeast Asia: 163.

Nguyen, V. T, Clark, V. L and Tran. Q. P. (in prep). Husbandry Manual for Sunda Pangolin, Manis javanica (Desmarest, 1822) Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program, Cuc Phuong National Park. Vietnam.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org

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