Manis tricuspistree pangolin

Geographic Range

African tree pangolins, Manis tricuspis, range across central Africa, from Senegal to Keyna in the east and northern Angola in the south. (Anderson, et al., 1967)


African tree pangolins inhabit primary tropical forests as well as mosaic forests. They are both arboreal, as their common name implies, as well as terrestrial. (Nowak, 1991; Nowak, 1991; Sinsin, 2008)

Physical Description

African tree pangolins are characterized by their eponymous scales, which terminate in three cusps. This scaly covering is found all over the body except on most of the face, the inside surface of the legs and the underbelly. Scale color ranges from dark brown to russet to a brownish yellow. They have an elongate skull and a long tongue that serves as their primary feeding tool. Their claws are large and curved, which assists them in their arboreal behavior and dietary habits. African tree pangolins express some sexual dimorphism, as males are slightly larger than females. They generally weigh between 4.5 and 14 kg and are 31 to 45 cm in length. Their average body temperature ranges from 32.6 to 33.6 ˚C. African tree pangolins are smaller than their cousin Manis gigantea, and their tails are thinner than those of most of their African and Asian counterparts. (Anderson, et al., 1967; Nowak, 1991; Rahm, 1956)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    4.5 to 14 kg
    9.91 to 30.84 lb
  • Range length
    31 to 45 cm
    12.20 to 17.72 in


African tree pangolins are usually solitary, but they have been observed traveling in pairs. When a male comes across a female, mating occurs if the female is in estrus. Little else is known regarding the mating systems of African tree pangolins. (Anderson, et al., 1967; Nowak, 1991; Sinsin, 2008)

Although uncertain, it is believed that African tree pangolins can reproduce at any time of the year. Gestation lasts approximately 150 days. Females usually give birth to 1 infant, and,though uncommon, may produce two. Newborns weigh approximately 200 to 500 grams. Female African tree pangolins reach sexual maturity when they reach a length of approximately 810 mm. (Anderson, et al., 1967; Nowak, 1991)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding of African tree pangolins can occur at any time of year.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    150 days

Little information is known regarding parental investment of African tree pangolins. Mothers provide care for some duration of time, as infants ride on the back of their mother. For protection, the mother curls into a ball with the infant encompassed in the middle. (Anderson, et al., 1967; Nowak, 1991)

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


The lifespan of African tree pangolins is currently unknown. One individual in captivity is still alive after 13 years 6 months of age. (Nowak, 1991)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    13.5 (high) years


African tree pangolins are diurnal and solitary, although they sometimes pair with a partner. They spend time both on the ground and in trees. On the ground, they can exhibit both quadrupedal and bipedal locomotion. Their prehensile tail and claws help them to climb trees. (Doran and Allbrook, 1973; Nowak, 1991)

Home Range

Home ranges of African tree pangolins vary in size and are different between sexes. Males generally inhabit a larger territory than females. (Anderson, et al., 1967; Sinsin, 2008)

Communication and Perception

African tree pangolins have poor vision, but they have an acute sense of smell. They can secrete pungent fluid from glands located near their anus. The use of this secretion is as yet unknown. (Anderson, et al., 1967; Doran and Allbrook, 1973; Rahm, 1956)

Food Habits

African tree pangolins are insectivorous, specializing on (ants and termites) as well as soft bodied invertebrates. Their tongue and face are well adapted to this insectivory; their elongated snout houses a muscular tongue that can be extended up to a third of their body length. They use their claws on their forelimbs to open an insect mound, and their tongue quickly darts in and out of the mound, collecting insects. African tree pangolins drink water in a similar manner. (Doran and Allbrook, 1973)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • terrestrial worms


As a juvenile, infant African tree pangolins rely on the protective curling of their mothers around them to avoid predation. As an adult, they employ a similar strategy of curling up. They have also been known to escape into water to avoid predators. Predators include African golden cats and other felids. Humans also frequently hunt African tree pangolins. (Nowak, 1991; Rahm, 1956)

  • Known Predators
    • African golden cats (Profelis aurata)
    • humans (Homo sapiens)

Ecosystem Roles

African tree pangolins eat a considerable amount of insects including ants and termites, and they also serve as prey to many felids. They act as host to ticks of the genus Amblyomma. (Anderson, et al., 1967)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

African tree pangolins are hunted for their meat and scales. The scales are used to make boots and shoes and are also used as indigenous ornaments and in medicines. (Anderson, et al., 1967; Nowak, 1991)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no adverse effects of African tree pangolins on humans.

Conservation Status

African tree pangolins are listed as near threatened by the IUCN and on Appendix II by CITES. They vary in number regionally, though overall numbers are decreasing. They are protected by many local governments, but indigenous groups still hunt them for their meat and scales. (Sinsin, 2008)

Other Comments

The fossil record does not clearly elucidate a phylogeny for African tree pangolins, Manis tricuspis, or the other members of the Order Pholidota. Traditionally, taxonomists thought they shared a close evolutionary affinity with the members of the Order Cingulata, but this was due to superficial morphological similarities most likely due to convergence. Molecular work does not show a close relationship. It is believed that the Pholidotes are an old group that split at the early onset of mammalian evolution. (Emry, et al., 1993)


James Andrews (author), University of Oregon, Stephen Frost (editor), University of Oregon, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



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

World Map


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.

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


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.


Having one mate at a time.


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.


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.


remains in the same area


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


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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


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


Anderson, S., J. Barlow, J. Jones Jr.. 1967. Recent Mammals of the World. New York: The Ronald Press Company.

Doran, G., D. Allbrook. 1973. The Tongue and Associated Structures in Two Species of African Pangolins, Manis gigantea and Manis tricuspis. Journal of Mammalogy, 54/4: 887-899.

Emry, R., M. McKenna, M. Novacek, K. Rose, F. Szalay. 1993. Mammal Phylogeny. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Jones, C. 1973. Body Temperature of Manis Gigantea and Manis tricuspis. Journal of Mammalogy, 54/1: 263-266.

Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World 5th Edition. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Rahm, U. 1956. Notes on Pangolins of the Ivory Coast. Journal of Mammalogy, 37/4: 531-537.

Sinsin, B. 2008. Ecology and ethnozoology of the three-cusped pangolin Manis tricuspis (Mammalia, Pholidota) in the Lama Forest Reserve. Mammalia, 72/3: 198-202.

Sodeinde, O., A. Adefuke, O. Balogun. 2002. Morphometric Analysis of Manis Tricuspis (Pholidota-mommalia) from South-Western Nigeria. Global Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences, 8/1: 7-14.