Also known as the African black-bellied pangolin, the Long-tailed pangolin are scientifically referred as Phataginus tetradactyla and are one of the most fascinating wildlife species you are likely to encounter during your safari through Uganda’s national parks.
Long tailed pangolins are indigenous to regions of western and Central Africa inhabiting areas that include Congo Basin and the Guinean forests, Senegal as well as across Uganda to Angola. You can also find them within south-western Ghana and west Nigeria.
They were classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Just like most pangolin species, the long-tailed pangolins are threatened due to hunting for bush meat and traditional medicine trade.
These Pangolin species inhabit the moist, swamp forest and tropical riverine areas although have always been spotted within the altered forests (especially bushes) as well as the agricultural areas of former lowland rainforests. These animals are almost exclusively arboreal in that they spend most of their time within the canopy areas and prefer inhabiting the interior parts of the forests and avoid outermost borders. Due to the fact that they are good swimmers, they are also found near water bodies especially Rivers.
They are myrmecophagous that primarily feed on ants. They are the only species of pangolins that don’t depend on termites as the large part of their diet. They use their well-developed sense of smell to search for the arboreal ant nests that they tear open with their strong-curved claws. They then use their long and sticky tongues to capture escaping ants before pulling and swallowing them whole.
Long-tailed pangolins are arboreal pangolins that belong to the Manidae family, Phataginus genus and order Pholidota. Their name derives from their physical characteristics that include their long tail or the dark hairs that cover the underparts of their limbs and body.
Pangolins derive their name from a Malay word “pengguling” that refers to something that rolls up because of their rolling behavior. As earlier mentioned the long-tailed pangolins are characterized by their very long tails extending for 60 to 70 centimeters (24 to 28 inches) long and their tails also contain from 46 to 47 caudal vertebrae, which is very rare among mammals.
Their bodies can extend for 30 to 40 centimeters long and weigh from two to two and a half kilograms and definitely the males are larger than the females. Regardless of their long tails, these animals are the smallest of the eight sub-species of pangolins. Just like other species, the long-tailed pangolins are covered with nine to thirteen rows of overlapping leaf-shaped keratinous scales that are generally dark-brown in color with a brighter rim that are helpful during camouflage.
Long-tailed pangolins have large feet with curved claws but the tip of their tails is bare and contains sensory pads that allow them to seek out and grip on branches. However, these mammals don’t have teeth but their tongues are very long. Interestingly, their abdomen and underparts of their limbs and face are covered with dark hairs and not scales.
Surprisingly. The long-tailed pangolins are the only diurnal pangolin species and this helps to avoid competition for food with other species, especially the tree pangolins (Manis tricuspis). They are also shy and solitary species that communicate with one another with their Pheromones that are secreted in a pair of anal scent glands. The pheromones within the exudates are most likely used for attracting mates and creating territorial boundaries.
Their main predators are leopards and pythons thus they developed a number of anti-predatory mechanisms to protect themselves and one of which include the use of scales for camouflage.
Much as little is recorded about reproduction of the long-tailed pangolins, they are said to reach sexual maturity as about 2 years old and mate throughout the year with an average gestation period of 140 days. Females give birth to single offsprings that have soft scales that eventually harden within few days.