Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The giant ground pangolin is an elusive nocturnal species that passes the day hidden under plant debris or out of sight deep in its burrow. Come nightfall it typically goes in search of ant and termite mounds in order to feed upon the multitudinous residents teeming within (2) (5) (8). Resting on its broad, heavy tail it uses its powerful claws to tear open the mounds and its long, sticky tongue to probe the cracks and tunnels for the nutritious quarry (2) (5). Naturally, the frenzied insects swarm the pangolin, but thick skin, tough eyelids, closable nostrils and internal ears are effective adaptations to the otherwise painful stings and bites (2) (4). Pangolins are normally solitary but occasionally a male and female live together in the same burrow with their offspring (5) (8). Little is known about pangolin breeding biology, except that females usually carry the developing embryo for around 140 days before giving birth to a single young (2). The newborn is nursed by the female for three to four months and will accompany her on foraging bouts riding on the base of the tail (8).
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Description

The giant ground pangolin earns its name for being the largest of eight species that are the sole representatives of the highly specialized mammalian order Pholidota (4). Despite not being closely related to the other ant-eating mammals, pangolins are sometimes referred to as scaly anteaters, in reference to the similar adaptations the two groups exhibit to the same ecological niche (5). All pangolins have short powerful legs with strong, curved claws for digging, and elongate, tapering bodies protected above by overlapping scales (2) (4) (6). Although the underside of the body is soft and hairy, when in danger, pangolins are bale to roll into a tight, almost impregnable ball, with only the hard, scaly parts of the body exposed (4) (6). At the end of the pangolin's tubular head is a small, toothless mouth, out of which it projects an astoundingly long, sticky tongue (6) (7). Like other pholidots, the giant ground pangolin has small eyes and poor eyesight but an acute sense of smell and very good hearing, despite the absence of external ears (5) (8).
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Distribution

Range Description

Discontinuously distributed in humid forests in West and Central Africa. Recorded from Senegal (though there is no evidence of its presence in Gambia) eastwards through Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana; there is no information from Guinea Bissau or Togo (Kingdon and Hoyt in press). Sayer and Green (1984) recorded the species from Batia on the border of the Pendjari N.P. in the north of Benin, and referred to sightings in neighbouring Burkino Faso and Niger (although the species is not included in Lamarque 2004). The presence of this species in Nigeria is unclear, but it may occur in the south. Occurs on the island of Bioko (Kingdon and Hoyt in press).

From the eastern bank of the Sanaga River in Cameroon the species is fairly continuously distributed throughout the Congo Basin to Uganda (Kingdon and Hoyt in press). In Kenya, it has been observed on the lakeshore in west Kenya, close to the Uganda border (see Kingdon 1971). The latter author also published an authenticated record from the Mahale Mts, where their presence has been confirmed recently by camera-traps (C.A.H. Foley pers. comm.). There are no records from Sudan or Burundi (Kingdon and Hoyt in press), and they are believed extinct in Rwanda (Brautigam et al. 1994).
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Geographic Range

Giant pangolins live in Africa, along the equator from West Africa to Uganda.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Range

The giant ground pangolin has a discontinuous distribution through West and Central Africa from Senegal east to Ghana, and Cameroon east to Kenya (1).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The typical mass range of this species is not known, but one individual was found to weigh 33 kg. Male body length is about 140 cm; female about 125 cm. Manis gigantea is the largest of its genus, giving it the name "giant pangolin." It is covered with large, thick scales and has no hair (except eyelashes). The snout is long, and the scales are usually brown or reddish brown. It has long claws on the front feet and a long, wide tail.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Occurs in lowland tropical moist and swamp forest, and in forest-savanna-cultivation mosaic habitats. It is also found in some areas in the uplands of Itombwe, where soils are suitable for its digging. It feeds on ants, termites and other insects. A terrestrial species, animals spend the daytime resting under piles of plant debris, in thicket, under fallen tree roots, in partially opened termitaries, or in burrows (Kingdon and Hoyt in press). The females give birth to a single young.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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This species lives in forests and savannahs where termites are abundant and water is available. It does not occur at high altitudes.

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

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Inhabits moist tropical lowland forests and forested swamps, but will also occur in mosaic habitats comprising forest, savannah and areas of cultivation (1).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Giant pangolins eat ants and termites. The dig into both subterranean and mound-type termite nests with their powerful claws, and they can eat a large quantity of these insects. Pangolins must also have access to drinking water.

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Little is known about the reproduction of this species. Two birth records indicate that a litter was found in September and another in October. The young weighed about 500 g at birth. The newborn has soft scales and its eyes are open. It cannot walk on its legs, but it is active and can scramble around on its stomach.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Hoffmann, M.

Reviewer/s
Hoffmann, M. & Stuart, S.N. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Near Threatened because it seems reasonable to assume that this species has undergone a decline in the region of 20-25% over the past 15 years (three generations) due mainly to the impact of bushmeat hunting. However, while it is decreasing in many parts of its range, several important populations are stable, such as those in Ituri Forest and the Salonga National Park in DR Congo. Almost qualifies as threatened under criterion A2cd.
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The abundance of giant pangolins is not well known, since they have not been studied in detail and because they are nocturnal, which makes them difficult to observe casually. It is clear that deforestation for timber, urban development and agricultural development have decreased the amount of habitat available. Hunting also decreases population levels. Manis gigantea is listed on CITES appendix II.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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Status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).
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Population

Population
This is mostly a solitary, nocturnal species which is difficult to census, and there is no reliable information on population abundance or densities.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
As with other pangolins, this species is subject to widespread exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine (Bräutigam et al. 1994). Fa et al. (1995) noted that survey records of Giant Pangolin meat in the markets of Bioko were misleading as only 10% made it to market. The species is occasionally recorded in international trade: between 1996 and 2005, CITES trade reports documented a single animal exported from Cameroon in 1999 and another from Gabon in 2004 (Kingdon and Hoyt in press).
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In common with other pangolins, the giant ground pangolin is hunted for bushmeat and persecuted for use in traditional medicine (1). Furthermore, some people maintain old ritualistic beliefs that the pangolin's scales and other body parts can be used to generate rain, neutralize evil spirits, and ward off lions (5) (8). Although only scant data is currently available, its population is thought to be gradually declining (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It is present in a number of protected areas (e.g. Ituri Forest Reserve and the Salonga National Park, in Democratic Republic of Congo, National Park of Upper Niger in Guinea, and Tai National Park in Côte d'Ivoire) (Kingdon and Hoyt in press). While it is listed on Appendix II of CITES, there is a need to develop and enforce protective legislation in many range states.
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Conservation

Although the giant ground-pangolin occurs in several protected areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and the Ivory Coast, there are no specific targeted conservation measures for this species. The primary concern is that despite its listing on Appendix II of CITES, the legislation restricting trade is not being effectively enforced in many African states (1).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Manis gigantea on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pangolins are hunted for their meat and for their scales, which are considered very desirable due to their use in native medicines and rituals.

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Wikipedia

Giant pangolin

The giant pangolin (Manis gigantea) is a pangolin species. Members of the species inhabit Africa with a range stretching along the equator from West Africa to Uganda. The giant pangolin is the largest species of pangolins, or "scaly anteaters" – the large, scaled mammals belonging to the family Manidae. It subsists almost entirely on ants and termites. The species was first described by Johann Karl Wilhelm Illiger in 1815.

Habitat, range, and status[edit]

The giant pangolin inhabits many countries, with the largest concentration in Uganda, Tanzania, and western Kenya. It is found mainly in the savanna, rainforest, and forest, inhabiting areas with large termite populations and available water. It does not inhabit high-altitude areas.

Due to habitat destruction and deforestation, the species is in great decline, and this, together with hunting of it as bushmeat and for the supposed medicinal properties of its scales, has led to concerns about population levels. Because the species is nocturnal, few studies have been carried out. Currently, this pangolin is classified as a "least concern" by the IUCN.

Physical description[edit]

The giant pangolin is the largest of all pangolin species. While its average mass has not been measured, one specimen was found to weigh 33 kg (72.6 lb). Males are larger than females, with male body lengths about 140 cm (4.6 ft) and females about 125 cm (4.1 ft). Like all pangolins, the species is armored with large, brown to reddish-brown scales formed from keratin. Curiously, it also has eyelashes. The giant pangolin has a long snout, a long, thick tail, and large front claws.

The animal has a strong sense of smell and large anal glands. Its secretions may be significant to animal communication. The species walks with most of its weight is on its columnar rear legs, and curls its front paws, walking on the outside of the wrists rather than the palms to protect the claws. By using its tail for balance, it will often walk upright as a biped.

Behavior[edit]

Specimen

The giant pangolin, like other pangolins, is nocturnal, which makes observation difficult. It is also usually solitary, although in one case an adult was seen in a burrow with a juvenile. The species is capable of climbing trees and other objects.

Diet[edit]

Like all pangolins, the giant pangolin is a specialized insectivore that lacks teeth and the ability to chew. Its diet mainly consists of ants and termites, which it finds by tearing open anthills and termite nests, both subterranean and mound-type.

Because of its relatively large size, the giant pangolin is particularly well-suited to breaking open termite mounds by leaning on the mound and resting its weight on its tail, and then ripping into the mound with its front claws. The combination of weight and physical damage quickly leads to a partial collapse of the mound, exposing the termites. Only the adults are strong enough to do this; their young must follow behind their mothers until they grow large enough to do it for themselves. It eats the insects by picking them up with its sticky tongue, which is up to 16 in long.

Reproduction[edit]

Very little information about the reproduction of the giant pangolin is known. Two birth records exist, with one litter in September and another in October, with the young weighing around 500 g.[citation needed] As in all pangolins, infants have soft scales that eventually harden, and are born with open eyes. They cannot walk on their legs, but can move on their bellies. During age 6-8 weeks the young will often spew a yellow secretion from their anal glands(that is often said to smell of decay and cabbage) that is used to keep predators and other animals from taking advantage of their mothers.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schlitter, D. A. (2005). "Order Pholidota". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 530. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Hoffmann, M. (2008). "Smutsia gigantea". In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 03 April 2014.

Sources[edit]

  • Ciszek, Deborah. "Manis gigantea (giant pangolin)." Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. June 1999. [1]
  • "Pangolin." African Wildlife Foundation. [2]
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