Manis tetradactylalong-tailed pangolin

Geographic Range

Long-tailed pangolins are native to parts of western and central Africa in the Ethiopian biogeographical zone. They range from Senegal to Uganda and Angola, encompassing Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, and Senegal. (Hoffmann, et al., 1982; Hutchins, et al., 2003; Smith, 1985; "Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed.", 1999)


Long-tailed pangolins are strictly arboreal, residing in hollow trees or epiphytes. They live in tropical riverine and swamp forests, and rainforests, including agricultural areas within rainforests. They are good swimmers and are always found close to water; they may drop into the water from overhanging branches. Long-tailed pangolins prefer to live away from the outer edges of forests. They are generally restricted to the forest canopy. (Angelici, et al., 2001; Grzimek, 1990; Happold, 1987; Hutchins, et al., 2003; "Uromanis tetradactyla", 2008)

Physical Description

Long-tailed pangolins have long prehensile tails that make up almost two-thirds of their total length. They have the longest tails (60 to 70 cm) and the shortest bodies (35 to 45 cm) of the eight pangolin species. Males are slightly larger than females. The tail contains 46 to 47 caudal vertebrae, a record number among mammals. Their bodies are covered with large overlapping scales, which are dark brown with yellowish edges and are shaped like artichoke leaves. Unlike Asian pangolins, they do not have hairs at the base of their scales. In addition to the 9 to 13 rows of scales covering its back, long-tailed pangolins have scales everywhere except the face, throat, belly, inner arms and legs, and a small bare patch on the underside of the tail. This bare patch contains a sensory pad used to seek out holds while climbing. Like other ant-eating mammals, long-tailed pangolins have strong, curved claws, specialized for breaking into ant nests. They have no teeth and long tongues that extend into the abdomen. Adults range in mass from 2 to 2.5 kg, and head-body length ranges from 95 to 115 centimeters. Long-tailed pangolins are sometimes mistaken for their closest relative, tree pangolins, another arboreal, African species. The two species are similar in size and coloration. (Angelici, et al., 2001; Gaudin and Wible, 1999; Grzimek, 1990; Happold, 1987; Hutchins, et al., 2003; Macdonald, 1985; "Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed.", 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    2 to 2.5 kg
    4.41 to 5.51 lb
  • Range length
    95 to 115 cm
    37.40 to 45.28 in


Little is known about the mating system of long-tailed pangolins or pangolins in general. They are solitary, only coming together to mate. During copulation, the male and female face each other and intertwine tails. (Gaudin and Wible, 1999; Grzimek, 1990; Happold, 1987; Macdonald, 1985; "Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed.", 1999)

It is likely that long-tailed pangolins breed throughout the year. The gestation period is about 4.5 months. Females give birth to a single offspring at a time. At birth, young weigh 100 to 150 g. They are born with soft scales, which harden in a matter of days. Young ride on their mother for up to 3 months by clinging to her tail. Although weaning and lifespan are unknown, long-tailed pangolins are thought to reach sexual maturity at around 2 years old. More is known about the reproductive life-history of tree pangolins, which are closely related to long-tailed pangolins. Tree pangolins give birth to a single young after a 6 month gestation period. Young are born with eyes open and scales still soft, which harden after 2 days. Young tree pangolins stay in the nest until they are 2 to 3 weeks old, at which point they ride on their mothers' backs and tails. Weaning occurs after 3 to 4 months, and adult size is reached after 15 months. (Gaudin and Wible, 1999; Grzimek, 1990; Happold, 1987; Hutchins, et al., 2003; "Uromanis tetradactyla", 2008; Macdonald, 1985; "Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed.", 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding interval in long-tailed pangolins is not reported in the literature.
  • Breeding season
    Long-tailed pangolins breed throughout the year.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    140 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

Little is known of parental care in long-tailed pangolins. Females nurse and care for their young for extended periods, and young are dependent on their mothers for up to 3 months. Males are not involved in parental care. (Grzimek, 1990; Macdonald, 1985; "Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed.", 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


There is no information available regarding the lifespan of long-tailed pangolins. In general, pangolins do not do well in captivity, typically surviving less than six months. (Yang, et al., 2007)


Long-tailed pangolins are solitary and very shy. When threatened, they roll into a ball, with the scales acting as armor. They also sleep curled up this way in tree hollows or epiphytes. They are the only species of pangolin that is primarily diurnal. Their scales provide good camouflage, allowing them to hunt during the day while blending in with the tree bark. Long-tailed pangolins are primarily arboreal and are very good climbers. They climb by grabbing the tree with both front feet, then they bring up and anchor the back feet close behind. While climbing, the sensitive patch of skin on the tail is often used to seek out purchase. They often hang by the tip of their tails, which they wrap around a branch. If they cannot reach another branch while hanging this way, long-tailed pangolins often climb up their tails. Although they spend the majority of their time in the trees, long-tailed pangolins are great swimmers. They live near water, and may drop into streams from overhanging branches. They swim quickly with an undulating motion. (Angelici, et al., 2001; Grzimek, 1990; Happold, 1987; Hutchins, et al., 2003; "Uromanis tetradactyla", 2008)

Home Range

There is no information available regarding home range characteristics in long-tailed pangolins. (Hutchins, et al., 2003)

Communication and Perception

Long-tailed pangolins have a great sense of smell, which they use to locate prey. In addition, they have a touch-sensitive pad on the tip of the tail, which is used to help them navigate trees. They possess a pair of anal scent glands, which produces a strong exudate that is deposited with feces and urine. The pheromone in anal gland exudate is likely used to attract mates and may also be used to demarcate territorial boundaries. (Feldhamer, et al., 2007; Macdonald, 1985)

Food Habits

Long-tailed pangolins are myrmecophagous, with a primary diet consisting mostly of ants. Unlike other species of pangolin, they do not depend on termites as a large part of their diet. Long-tailed pangolins use their sense of smell to locate arboreal ant nests and rip them open with their powerful claws. They also attack columns of foraging ants that move along the tree. Like other ant-eating mammals, long-tailed pangolins have long, sticky tongues that they use to catch ants. Prey are then broken down in its muscular, gizzard-like stomach. (Feldhamer, et al., 2007; Grzimek, 1990; Hutchins, et al., 2003)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects


Major predators of long-tailed pangolins include leopards, pythons, and humans. Their scales are useful for protection against predators. When long-tailed pangolins are in the trees, these scales act as camouflage, and when an individual is threatened, it curls itself into a ball, so that only the scaled parts of its body are exposed. The sharp posterior edge of each scale sticks up slightly acting as armor and a potential weapon if the predator gets too close. (Anadu, et al., 1988; Angelici, et al., 2001; Feldhamer, et al., 2007; Grzimek, 1990; Happold, 1987; Henschel, et al., 2005; "Uromanis tetradactyla", 2008; Macdonald, 1985)

Ecosystem Roles

Long-tailed pangolins are important ant predators and likely have a significant influence on ant demographics throughout their geographic range. There is no information regarding parasites specific to this species.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Long-tailed pangolins are hunted and sold by native people as part of the bushmeat trade. A survey taken in Nigeria (Anadu et al., 1988) found that long-tailed pangolins were worth about 12 US dollars per kilogram. They are also killed for their scales, which are used in traditional medicines, as jewelry, and as good luck charms. (Anadu, et al., 1988; Angelici, et al., 2001; Feldhamer, et al., 2007; "Uromanis tetradactyla", 2008; Macdonald, 1985)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of long-tailed pangolins on humans.

Conservation Status

Although populations of Manis tetradactyla are declining, this species is still classified as "least concern" by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is relatively widespread, resides primarily in protected areas, and is tolerant of moderate habitat modification. Manis tetradactyla is the least often observed of the African pangolin species, and populations may be larger than predicted. The bushmeat trade presents the greatest threat to the long-term survival of this species. (Anadu, et al., 1988; "Uromanis tetradactyla", 2008)


Leslie Burrell (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed.. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. 2008. "Uromanis tetradactyla" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. Accessed March 15, 2011 at

Anadu, P., P. Elamah, J. Oates. 1988. The Bushmeat Trade in Southwestern Nigeria: A Case Study. Human Ecology, 16: 199-208.

Angelici, F., B. Egbide, G. Akani. 2001. Some New Mammal Records from the Rainforests of South-eastern Nigeria. Hystrix - Italian Journal of Mammalogy, 12: 37-43.

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Gaudin, T., J. Wible. 1999. The Entotympanic of Pangolins and the Phylogeny of the Pholidota (Mammalia). Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 6: 39-65.

Grzimek, B. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, v. 2. Hastings-on-Hudson, NJ: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Happold, D. 1987. The Mammals of Nigeria. New York: Oxford University Press.

Henschel, P., K. Abernethy, L. White. 2005. Leopard food habits in the Lopé National Park, Gabon, Central Africa. African Journal of Ecology, 43: 21-28.

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Hutchins, M., D. Kleiman, V. Geist, M. McDade. 2003. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, v. 16: Mammals V. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group.

Macdonald, D. 1985. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc.

Smith, S. 1985. The Atlas of Africa's Principal Mammals. Republic of South Africa: Natural History Books.

Yang, C., S. Chen, C. Chang, M. Lin, E. Block, R. Lorentsen, J. Chin, E. Dierenfeld. 2007. History and Dietary Husbandry of Pangolins in Captivity. Zoo Biology, 26: 223-230.