There are eight species of pangolins identified in the world.1 All pangolin species are toothless insectivores that prefer ants and termites as food sources. The Formosan pangolin (Manis pentadactyla pentadactyla) belongs to the subspecies of Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), which is distributed solely on the Taiwan Island. Raising and captive management of pangolins has been problematic and there is little information available on ecology, physiology, and medical care of this species. Here we report on a 10-year (1995–2004) retrospective review of 68 pangolin necropsy records in the Taipei zoo. The male-to-female ratio was about 2:1(44:24). However, the age of the necropsied animals could not be determined. Most animals had gross lesions involving more than two organs. Pneumonia (45/68) and gastric ulcers (42/68) were the most commonly found lesions. Histopathologic examination revealed broncho interstitial pneumonia with marked syncytial cells and edema in some of the animals. These pulmonary lesions were determined to be positive for canine distemper virus using the non-biotin polymerized horseradish-peroxidase method.2 This is the first detected contagious viral infection ever found in pangolins.
We thank the technicians at the veterinary department of the Taipei Zoo for their kind help with sampling and animal care.
1. Gaubert P, Antunes A. Assessing the taxonomic status of the Palawan pangolin Manis culionensis (Pholidota) using discrete morphological characters. J Mammal. 2005;86(6):1068–1074.
2. Liang CT, et al. A non-biotin polymerized horseradish-peroxidase method for the immunohistochemical diagnosis of canine distemper. J Comp Pathol. 2007;136:57–64.