Weaning Period And Growth For Pangolins

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The weaning period and growth of pangolins vary depending on the species.

Here is what we know about the weaning period and growth of Sunda pangolin cubs:

  • The milk secretion period of the mother is about 0-5 months after giving birth.
  • The weaning period of Sunda pangolin cubs is about 4-5 months after birth.
  • A study that tracked and recorded the weight changes of 13 captive Sunda pangolin cubs from lactation to maturity found that the appropriate weaning period for Sunda pangolin cubs is 4-5 months after birth.

For Formosan pangolins, a different species, the nursing period lasts about three months After weaning, pangolins continue to grow until they reach maturity.

The growth rate of a hand-reared Formosan pangolin, in terms of total body length, was reported to be about 0.7 cm/week. However, there is no information available on the growth rate of Sunda pangolins.

Nutritional Requirements During Weaning

Pangolins have specific nutritional needs during the weaning period, which vary depending on the species.

Here is what we know about the nutritional requirements of Sunda pangolin cubs during the weaning period:

  • In captivity, both the mother and cubs are fed the same artificial diet, which consists of black ant powder, silkworm pupa powder, mealworm powder, soy protein powder, termite mound mud, and a small amount of vitamin complex.
  • The artificial diet is mixed with water until a semi-fluid concentration is reached, and the pangolins are fed 250-400 mL of food once a day between 17:00-20:00.
  • Clean water (100-200 mL) is also provided with a separate bowl.
  • Termites are added when the cubs refuse to eat the artificial diet.
  • A study that tracked and recorded the weight changes of 13 captive Sunda pangolin cubs from lactation to maturity found that the appropriate weaning period for Sunda pangolin cubs is 4-5 months after birth.

There is no information available on the specific nutritional needs of pangolins during the weaning period or how these needs change as they transition from milk to solid food.

However, based on the natural food ingredients of pangolins in the wild, many recipes have been developed for pangolin husbandry, including eggs, meat, and insects.

Weaning Strategies in Captive Pangolin Rehabilitation

Weaning pangolins in captivity, particularly those rescued from illegal trade or poaching, can be challenging.

Here are some effective strategies and challenges in weaning pangolins in captivity:

Effective strategies:

  • Provide an artificial diet that mimics the natural diet of pangolins in the wild, such as black ant powder, silkworm pupa powder, mealworm powder, soy protein powder, termite mound mud, and a small amount of vitamin complex.
  • Mix the artificial diet with water until a semi-fluid concentration is reached, and feed the pangolins 250-400 mL of food once a day between 17:00-20:00.
  • Provide clean water (100-200 mL) with a separate bowl.
  • Add termites when the cubs refuse to eat the artificial diet.
  • Monitor the nursing behavior of the mother and cubs with a surveillance camera above the activity area.

Challenges:

  • Pangolins rescued from illegal trade or poaching may have poor health conditions, making it difficult to wean them.
  • Captive pangolins may have a low acceptance of artificial feed, which can prolong the weaning period.
  • The weaning period of captive pangolins may be longer than that of wild pangolins due to differences in foraging behavior.
  • There is limited information available on the specific nutritional needs of pangolins during the weaning period, which can make it challenging to provide an appropriate artificial diet.

Despite these challenges, effective strategies have been developed to wean pangolins in captivity.

The Pangolin Consortium has conducted basic research under controlled conditions at zoos on pangolin behavior and health, which has resulted in high captive survival rates and even successful breeding of pangolins in captivity

Zoos can also present pangolins to the public, educating about their endangered status and improving conservation funding.

Growth and Development Milestones

Pangolins have different growth and developmental milestones depending on the species.

Here is what we know about the key growth and developmental milestones for pangolins during their early years:

  • Formosan pangolin cubs are born with soft scales that harden after two days.
  • A study on the nursing period, behavior development, and growth pattern of a newborn Formosan pangolin in the wild found that exploring behaviors that were recorded occurred after the mother had left the burrow.
  • The total body length of the infant pangolin grows rapidly, reaching 20 cm at 1 month old and 30 cm at 2 months old.
  • The study also found that the Formosan pangolin cub started to become more independent at 3 months old, when it began to follow the mother outside the burrow.
  • There is limited information available on the growth and developmental milestones of Sunda pangolins.

    However, a study that tracked and recorded the weight changes of 13 captive Sunda pangolin cubs from lactation to maturity found that the cubs reached sexual maturity at around 2-3 years old.
  • Adult male and female Chinese pangolins measure between 75.2–103 cm and 66–114.9 cm from the snout to the tip of the tail and weigh between 4–7.6 kg and 3–5.8 kg.

Pangolins grow rapidly during their early years, and they start to become more independent at around 3 months old.

However, there is limited information available on the growth and developmental milestones of pangolins, particularly Sunda pangolins.

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Influence of Diet on Growth

The diet composition during the weaning period can affect the growth and health of pangolins.

Here is what we know about the role of ant and termite species in their diets:

  • Sunda pangolins naturally eat termites and small amounts of other species of ants.
  • Both female and cubs of captive Sunda pangolins are fed the same artificial diet, which consists of black ant powder, silkworm pupa powder, mealworm powder, soy protein powder, termite mound mud, and a small amount of vitamin complex.
  • The artificial diet is mixed with water until a semi-fluid concentration is reached, and the pangolins are fed 250-400 mL of food once a day between 17:00-20:00.
  • Termites are added when the cubs refuse to eat the artificial diet.
  • A study on the growth rates of hand-reared and mother-reared Sunda pangolin pups found that the daily crude protein concentration of ingested diets ranged from 33.6 to 50.1%, whereas crude fat concentrations ranged from 17.4.
  • The nutrient content of the milk formula used over time, the composition of solid food introduced, or the process of weaning may each have led to differences in growth rates of hand-reared and mother-reared Sunda pangolin pups.
  • The crude protein content of pangolin’s natural foods, such as Tetramorium bicarinatum, Camponotus herculeanus, and Pheidole megacephala, ranges from 20.5% to 47.5%, which is lower than that of the artificial diet.
  • The crude fat content of pangolin’s natural foods ranges from 3.5% to 23.5%, which is higher than that of the artificial diet.

The diet composition during the weaning period can affect the growth and health of pangolins.

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While pangolins naturally eat termites and small amounts of other species of ants, captive pangolins are fed an artificial diet that consists of black ant powder, silkworm pupa powder, mealworm powder, soy protein powder, termite mound mud, and a small amount of vitamin complex.

The nutrient content of pangolin’s natural foods is different from that of the artificial diet, which may affect the growth rates of hand-reared and mother-reared Sunda pangolin pups.

Social Behavior During Weaning

There is limited information available on the social interactions and behaviors exhibited by pangolin pups and their mothers during the weaning process and its impact on their development.

However, here is what we know:

  • Sunda pangolin mothers display behaviors during the weaning period, such as wrestling.
  • Pangolins are solitary animals, and the only time they spend time together is when they mate and bear young.
  • Some pangolin fathers will stay in the den until the single offspring is independent.
  • Formosan pangolin cubs start to become more independent at 3 months old, when they begin to follow the mother outside the burrow.
  • A study on the nursing period, behavior development, and growth pattern of a newborn Formosan pangolin in the wild found that exploring behaviors that were recorded occurred after the mother had left the burrow.

Overall, there is limited information available on the social interactions and behaviors exhibited by pangolin pups and their mothers during the weaning process and its impact on their development.

However, it is known that Sunda pangolin mothers display behaviors during the weaning period, and Formosan pangolin cubs start to become more independent at 3 months old.

Weaning in Different Pangolin Species

Different pangolin species have varying weaning periods and growth patterns.

Here is a comparison of the weaning periods and growth patterns of different pangolin species:

Sunda pangolin:

  • The weaning period of captive Sunda pangolin cubs is about 4-5 months after birth.
  • A study that tracked and recorded the weight changes of 13 captive Sunda pangolin cubs from lactation to maturity found that the body maturity and body weight of female cubs tend to be stable at around 15.3 months and 16.4 months, respectively.
  • The daily crude protein concentration of ingested diets ranged from 33.6% to 50.1%, whereas crude fat concentrations ranged from 17.4% to 28.5%.

Formosan pangolin:

  • The growth rate, in terms of total body length, of a hand-reared Formosan pangolin was reported to be about 0.7 cm/week.
  • Formosan pangolin cubs start to become more independent at 3 months old, when they begin to follow the mother outside the burrow.

Chinese pangolin:

  • No article has reported biological information about the growth of Chinese pangolins in the wild.
  • The adult male and female Chinese pangolins measure between 75.2–103 cm and 66–114.9 cm from the snout to the tip of the tail and weigh between 4–7.6 kg and 3–5.8 kg.
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The weaning periods and growth patterns of different pangolin species vary.

While the weaning period of captive Sunda pangolin cubs is about 4-5 months after birth, Formosan pangolin cubs start to become more independent at 3 months old.

The nutrient content of the ingested diets of Sunda pangolins is different from that of Formosan pangolins.

There is limited information available on the growth and development of Chinese pangolins.

Conservation Implications of Weaning Research

Studying the weaning period and growth of pangolins can inform conservation efforts and strategies to protect these endangered animals.

Here are some implications of weaning research for pangolin conservation:

  • Captive breeding of endangered pangolin species is an important approach to prevent their extinction.
  • Weaning is an important part of the pangolin’s life cycle and is related to survival rate. Therefore, determining the weaning period of pangolins is of great significance to the growth and development of young, improving their survival.
  • Termites are key to helping pangolin cubs transition to artificial formula, and using termites to coax cubs into eating an artificial diet has been successful.
  • The nutrient content of the ingested diets of pangolins is different from that of the artificial diet, which may affect the growth rates of hand-reared and mother-reared Sunda pangolin pups.
  • Pangolin farming is a potential conservation strategy, but major barriers include an inability to breed pangolins on a large scale.
  • Establishing successful systems for rescue, rehabilitation, and release of pangolins confiscated from illegal trade is a goal of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group’s Conservation Strategy.

In conclusion, the knowledge gained from studying the weaning period and growth of pangolins can inform conservation efforts and strategies to protect these endangered animals.

Captive breeding, using termites to coax cubs into eating an artificial diet, and establishing successful systems for rescue, rehabilitation, and release of pangolins confiscated from illegal trade are some of the strategies that can be informed by weaning research.