Giant ground pangolin, Grand pangolin
The Giant pangolin is the biggest and the rarest of the African species of pangolin. It looks like an armored animal and behaves in the secretive manner of a spy. Its footprints look the same as a small elephant’s. They are covered with big, thick scales, typically brown or reddish brown in color, and have a long, thick tail. Their long claws stick out from their front feet. Although their underside is hairy and soft, when threatened, pangolins can roll into a tight, nearly impenetrable ball, where only hard, scaly parts of their body are exposed.
The Giant pangolin has a scattered distribution throughout Central and West Africa from Senegal to Ghana, and Cameroon to Kenya. It lives in forested swamps, moist tropical lowland forests and mosaic habitats of savanna, forest and areas of cultivation.
Habits and lifestyle
The Giant pangolin is a nocturnal and elusive animal that spends the day hidden beneath plant debris or deep in its burrow. At night it typically goes out to search for food. They are normally solitary but sometimes parents live in the same burrow as their offspring. They walk either on all four legs or using their hind legs with their tail for balance. While walking on all fours, they curl up their front paws to protect their sharp front claws. When startled, pangolins cover their head with their front legs, exposing their scales to the potential predator. If touched, they will roll up into a ball, and can use the sharp scales on their tail to lash out.
Diet and nutrition
Giant pangolins are insectivores and they eat termites and ants.
Little information is available about the breeding biology of Giant pangolins. One newborn was discovered in September and another found in October. Gestation is usually for about 140 days and a single young is born. The mother nurses her baby for three to four months then will take it with her when foraging, riding on the base of her tail.
The Giant pangolin, as with other pangolin, is hunted for its meat and to use for traditional medicine. Some local people also believe that the pangolin’s body parts can generate rain, ward off lions and neutralize evil spirits.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Giant pangolin total population size, but it's generally considered rare. Currently this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.
Being insectivorous, these animals may affect insect populations in their range.
Fun facts for kids
- The scales of the Giant pangolin are made of keratin, which is what our hair and nails are made of.
- The scales of this animal make up about 20 percent of its body weight.
- Pangolins can eat as many as 70 million insects each year. They usually eat 90 times during one night, each meal lasting one minute.
- There are only 19 species of ants and termites that the pangolin likes to eat.
- Pangolins have no teeth, so they must swallow small stones and sand with the insects to aid in the grinding of their food and digestion.
- A pangolin has poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. It does not have external ears, but can hear well.