Photo courtesy Ugandan Wildlife Authority

Giant ground pangolin

 Smutsia gigantea

This is the largest of the African pangolin species, and is also the rarest. It is a nocturnal, terrestrial species, inhabiting forests and forest-savanna mosaics in Central and West Africa, marginally entering East Africa as well. Adults may attain a length of 1.5 m and weigh up to 33 kg, but individuals of this size are rare. They are listed as Vulnerable on theIUCN Red List, and the population is believed to be declining. 


Giant ground pangolins are solitary and predominantly nocturnal. They inhabit tropical lowland forests, riparian forests and savannahs, and appear to be highly dependent on water. They avoid transformed habitat, and are thus highly susceptible to habitat transformation. During the day individuals take refuge in holes, in partially opened termite mounds, under debris or in thickets. They do not dig their own holes to sleep in, but rather rely on abandoned holes that were dug by other animals. 



Giant ground pangolins occur in two apparently disjunct populations. The smaller West African population is largely restricted to coastal countries, while it has a wider distribution in Central Africa, very marginally entering East Africa as well. Throughout its range individuals are largely restricted to large conservation areas, where it is at least afforded some protection. 



Nothing is known about the breeding biology of this species. It is believed to have a similar breeding biology to Temminck's ground pangolin, i.e. female giving birth to a single offspring probably only every second year. The baby stays with the mother until it is old enough to fend for itself. 




They feed exclusively on ants and termites, although the exact species that they prey on have not yet been recorded. Termite mounds and ant nests are broken open with the large, muscular front limbs. Large terrestrial termite mounds that have hard exteriors are rarely broken open, instead giant ground pangolins appear to forage more on termite species that do not build hard mounds.