Probably the least known of all pangolin species, the black-bellied pangolin spends almost its entire life in the trees (1), but will occasionally descend into pools and rivers, where it is a competent swimmer (6). While most pangolins are nocturnal (5), the black-bellied pangolin is also frequently active during the day, enabling it to forage without facing competition from the larger, tree-dwelling three-cusped pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) (4). The black-bellied pangolin uses scent to locate ant nests in the trees, which it pulls apart using its large foreclaws, while its long, sticky tongue flicks in out of the nest’s passageways, snaring the ants and drawing them into its mouth. Because it lacks teeth, the black-bellied pangolin swallows prey whole, and the muscular, horny coated walls of its stomach grind the food (5).
Little is currently known about the black-bellied pangolin’s breeding behaviour. The young are generally born between November and March after a gestation period of about 140 days (1). Only a single offspring is produced, which is carried on the mother’s tail for around three months before weaning (4).
When threatened, pangolins curl up into a tight ball, concealing their unprotected, scaleless parts, and becoming almost impossible to unroll. They may also squirt a foul-smelling substance from their anal glands (5).