Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Echidna or Spiny Ant Eater

Tachyglossus aculeatus


The Sunda or Malayan pangolin covered from just above the nostrils to the tips of their tails with a coat of movable, sharp-tipped scales set in many overlapping rows that resemble dragon’s armor or pine cones. There are 17-19 rows of scales present on the midsection of this species and more than 20 rows along the tail. The scales of the back and sides are derived from hairs and tend to be olive-brown to yellowish and hard. White-pale-brown hair covers the face and underbelly as well as gray-blue skin. The Sunda pangolin has a small conical head with small external ear parts, small eyes and thick eyelids. The nose of this pangolin is fleshy. This species can grow to be 79-88 cm long, including the tail. Males tend to be larger than females. They have large digging claws on the forefeet for excavating dirt and a prehensile tail.


Sunda pangolins are found in the paleotropics of southeastern Asia within the Indomalayan regions. This species prefers a variety of habitats including primary and secondary forests, open savannah country and areas vegetated with thick bush. They can also be seen in cultivated areas. Sunda pangolins are excellent burrowers and live in burrows but they are also very good climbers, spending much of their time resting in trees.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Sunda pangolins are insectivores, meaning they only consume insects. They are also known as scaly anteaters because they are myrmecophages, specialists in eating only ant and termites. The Sunda pangolin does not have any teeth. They have an extremely long, thin tongue of about 25 cm when extended that is covered in sticky saliva. The sticky saliva helps to collect termites and ants.


Breeding typically occurs in the fall when male pangolins compete for access to females by sparring with other males. One or two young are born in winter burrows after a gestation of 130 days. Young are weaned after three months. Sunda pangolins do not reach sexual maturity until after their first year of life.

Months and Times of Activity

This species is most active at night. Pangolins spend a lot of time resting in trees.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships
  • Most pangolin populations are listed as threatened by the IUCN as LR/nt (nearly threatened). This is due to the high demand for pangolin scales used in traditional medicines in many parts of the world.
  • When threatened, Sunda pangolins curl up into a tight ball.
  • This species is very well adapted to digging burrows with their large claws, although sometimes they choose to inhibit burrows previously inhabited by other animals.
  • To read legends featuring this animal go here
  • Children’s book featuring this animal: Roly Poly Pangolin by Anna Dewdney

Breen, Kelly. "Manis Javanica Malayan Pangolin." Animal Diversity Web. Michigan University, 2003. Web. 01 May 2013.