Chinese Pangolin

The critically endangered Chinese pangolin shares its love for ants and termites with the other seven species of the pangolin family.


A Chinese pangolin shows its claws at Taipei Zoo, in Taipei, Taiwan. It is one of the few successful births of pangolins in captivity.

Common Name: Chinese Pangolin
Scientific Name: Manis pentadactyla
Type: Mammals
Diet: Insectivore
Size: 31 inches long
Weight: 4.4 to 15 pounds
IUCN Red List Status: 

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.


Least Concern

At relatively low risk of extinction


Near Threatened

Likely to become vulnerable in the near future



At high risk of extinction in the wild



At very high risk of extinction in the wild


Critically Endangered

At extremely high risk of extinction in the wild


Extinct in the Wild

Survives only in captivity



No surviving individuals in the wild or in captivity

Data Deficient

Not enough information available to make an assessment

Not Evaluated

No assessment has been made

Critically Endangered
least concernextinct
Current Population Trend: 


The Chinese pangolin is a scale-covered mammal that resembles an armadillo in appearance and an anteater in behavior, though it is more closely related to bears and cats than anteaters.

Once found in forests and grasslands across southern China, parts of Southeast Asia, and into India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, poaching and trafficking have left the Chinese pangolin critically endangered. Despite protections, in some parts of Asia, including China and Vietnam, pangolin meat is considered a delicacy and its scales are used in traditional medicine, despite no evidence that the scales cure anything.

All of the four Asian species of pangolin are endangered or critically endangered, so poachers are setting their sights on the four African species to fill demand. All of those species are listed as vulnerable.


Like its pangolin relatives, the Chinese pangolin has no defense against humans—not even teeth—and its underside is soft and unprotected. Some poachers use dogs to find pangolins in their burrows and dig them out. When threatened by predators such as big cats, the pangolin quickly rolls into a tight, scale-covered ball.

Chinese pangolins are nocturnal, solitary animals that spend most of their time on the ground, but they are also good climbers. During the day they stay in the burrows they’ve dug out with their long front claws—often next to ant or termite mounds—or in passageways vacated by termites. The pangolins might also be the reason those passageways are empty: Termites and ants make up 100 percent of the pangolin’s diet.

After dark, pangolins head out to feed, finding an ant colony or termite mound that looks tasty. Digging into it with its efficient claws, the pangolin sticks in its snout and laps up the insects with its very long and very sticky tongue, eating thousands of insects in one day. When the ants swarm, the scales protect the pangolin from bites, and the ability to close off its nose and ears, as well as thick eyelids, help it deal with its stinging snack.


Pangolins live alone except when it comes time to mate. Females typically bear a single offspring at a time; Chinese pangolin males, which are much bigger than the females, stay with the family until the baby is weaned. A baby pangolin will ride on its mother’s back or tail from about a month old, after its scales harden, nursing and eating ants. Young stay with their mothers for about two years—when they become sexually mature—before heading off to start their own families.

Pangolins: The Most Trafficked Mammal You've Never Heard Of

You are leaving and different terms of use and privacy policy will apply.


Follow Us