In the early morning hours of March 13, Taipei Zoo welcomed the birth of a male Pangolin. The small, energetic baby is part of the 3rd generation of Pangolin born at the Zoo.
Staff had been carefully monitoring the Pangolin mom’s pregnancy and provided special care prior to the pangopup’s birth. Veterinarians assisted with the birth and the new boy arrived at about 2:45am, weighing in at 132 grams. He has now grown to 293 grams.
The veterinary nurse prepared a special nest of leaves and wood chips to allow insulation and protection for the new one. The new mother kept the baby completely buried in the heap of leaves to protect him from low temps.
Pangolins (also referred to as “Scaly Anteaters” or “Trenggiling”) are mammals of the order Pholidota. The one extant family, Manidae, has three genera: Manis, which comprises four species living in Asia, Phataginus, which comprises two species living in Africa, and Smutsia, which comprises two species also living in Africa. These species range in size from 30 to 100 cm (12 to 39 in). The name pangolin comes from the Malay word "pengguling", meaning "something that rolls up". It is found in tropical regions throughout Africa and Asia.
Pangolins have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin; they are the only known mammals with this adaptation. They live in hollow trees or burrows, depending on the species. Pangolins are nocturnal, and their diet consists of mainly ants and termites, which they capture using their long, specially adapted tongues. It can curl up into a ball when threatened, with its overlapping scales acting as armor and its face tucked under its tail. The scales are sharp, providing extra defense. The front claws are so long they are unsuited for walking, so the animal walks with its fore paws curled over to protect them.
Pangolins are threatened by hunting (for their meat and armor) and heavy deforestation of their natural habitats. Of the eight species of pangolin, four species (Phataginus tetradactyla, P. tricuspis, Smutsia gigantea, and S. temminckii) are listed as “Vulnerable”, two species (Manis crassicaudata and M. cullonensis) are listed as “Endangered”, and two species (M. pentadctyla and M. javanica) are listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Pangolins are solitary and meet only to mate. Males are larger than females, weighing up to 50% more. While there is no defined mating season, they typically mate once each year, usually during the summer or autumn months. Rather than the males seeking out the females, males mark their location with urine or feces and the females will find them. If there is competition over a female, the males will use their tails as clubs to fight for the opportunity to mate with her.
Gestation lasts for approximately 120–150 days. African Pangolin females usually give birth to a single offspring at a time, but the Asiatic species may give birth from one to three. Weight at birth is 80 to 450 g (2.8 to 15.9 oz) and the average length is 150 mm (5.9 in). At the time of birth, the scales are soft and white. After several days, they harden and darken to resemble those of an adult pangolin.
During the vulnerable stage, the mother stays with her offspring in the burrow, nursing it, and will wrap her body around it if she senses danger. The young cling to the mother's tail as she moves about, although in burrowing species, they remain in the burrow for the first two to four weeks of life. At one month old, they first leave the burrow riding on the mother's back. Weaning takes place at approximately three months of age, at which stage the young begin to eat insects in addition to nursing. At two years of age, the offspring are sexually mature and are abandoned by the mother.