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

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

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Range Description

This species is discontinuously distributed in humid forests in West and Central Africa. It is recorded from Senegal (though there is no evidence of its presence in Gambia) eastwards through Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia (including the vicinity of Mt Nimba; Coe 1975), Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where it has also been reported from the north in Mole National Park (Grubb et al. 1998). There is no information from Togo (Kingdon et al. 2013), although Grubb et al. (1998) map older records from Ghana near Fazao-Malfakassa National Park on the border with Togo. Sayer and Green (1984) recorded the species from Batia on the border of the Pendjari National Park in the north of Benin in the 1970s, 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. It also occurs on the island of Bioko (Kingdon et al. 2013).

From the eastern bank of the Sanaga River in Cameroon the species is fairly continuously distributed throughout the Congo Basin to Uganda (Kingdon et al. 2013). It has been observed on the lakeshore in west Kenya, close to the Uganda border and there is an authenticated record from the Mahale Mts in western Tanzania, where their presence has been confirmed recently by camera-traps (Kingdon et al. 2013). There are no records from Sudan or Burundi (Kingdon et al. 2013), and they are believed extinct in Rwanda (Bräutigam et al. 1994). Recent pangolin sightings from eastern Rwanda have been referred to S. temminckii (APWG unpubl. data).

The northern limits of the distribution are not well known but can be expected to broadly coincide with those of the tropical lowland rainforest. The northern banks of the Kasai and Tshuapa Rivers apparently define its southern limits within the central forest block (Kingdon et al. 2013).

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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

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.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

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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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology

Smutsia gigantea 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 exclusively on ants and termites. A terrestrial species, animals spend the daytime resting under piles of plant debris, in thickets, under fallen tree roots, in partially opened termitaria, or in burrows (Kingdon et al. 2013). The female gives birth to a single young, probably annually. Generation time is estimated at nine years based on the calculated generation time of S. temminckii (D. Pietersen unpubl. data), but may be longer.


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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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

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

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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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.

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

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Conservation

Conservation Status

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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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A4d

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2014

Assessor/s
Waterman, C., Pietersen, D., Hywood, L., Rankin, P. & Soewu, D.

Reviewer/s
Hoffmann, M.

Contributor/s
Hoffmann, M. & Akpona, H.

Justification
This species is listed as Vulnerable under criteria A4d because it is reasonable to assume that this species has already begun declining and will continue to decline by at least 40% over a 27 year period (nine years past, 18 years future) due mainly to the impact of bushmeat hunting and an increased demand from the international markets.
A generation length of nine years has been used for this assessment; however, it should be noted that there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding this estimate and further research into the life history of S. gigantea is required in order to make a more informed estimate of generation length.
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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
A solitary, nocturnal species which is difficult to census and as a result there is no reliable information on population abundance or densities. Bräutigam et al. (1994) report the species is believed to be quite rare, declining throughout its range, and extinct in Rwanda and Niger.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats

As with other pangolins, S. gigantea is subject to widespread exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine and is regularly recorded in bushmeat markets (Colyn et al. 1987, Bräutigam et al. 1994, Fa et al. 1995, Bowen-Jones 1998, Ayeni et al. 2001). Colyn et al. (1987) found that this species comprised one-tenth of the total number of pangolins (~100) on sale as bushmeat in rural areas around Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2004, Giant Ground Pangolins formed 5,019 kg in terms of harvested biomass (including either whole animals and/or animal parts) from five markets monitored in Gabon, compared to 2,053 for White-bellied Pangolins and 335 kg for Black-bellied Pangolins (Kingdon et al. 2013). Numbers of Giant Ground Pangolin for sale in bushmeat markets in Nigeria have increased over the past decade as White-bellied Pangolins become harder to source (D. Soewu pers. comm 2013).

Figures from bushmeat markets are likely to underestimate the actual offtake; Fa et al. (1995) noted that survey records of Giant Ground Pangolin meat in the markets of Bioko were misleading as only 10% made it to market. Similarly, in Liberia, only 25% of the harvest is sold, as local hunters preferred it to other species, while harvest rates in six communities adjacent to Sapo NP were found to be unsustainable (Kingdon et al. 2013).

The breakdown of taboos protecting the species has led to increased hunting pressure in some areas. For example, local protection afforded by totems in western Côte d’Ivoire has broken down due to refugee movements throughout the region as a result of conflicts in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire (Kingdon et al. 2013).

The species is occasionally recorded in international trade, including one instance of four live specimens reported as exported from Togo in 1984 (e.g. Bräutigam et al. 1994, Chaber et al. 2010). There are no reports of trade in live specimens in the CITES trade reports between 1996 and 2011, but the true scale of the illegal international trade is unknown. Intercontinental trade is a growing threat to Africa’s pangolins; in 2012 an unknown quantity of Giant Ground Pangolin scales from Guinea were seized by Belgium customs en route to China, suggesting there is intercontinental trade in this species from Africa to Asia (Challender and Hywood 2012). As this species appears to be heavily exploited throughout its range, it is likely threatened with extirpation wherever human populations are high or marketing networks along forest roads and rivers are in operation. Its large size, low reproductive rate and terrestrial habits make it particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation (Kingdon et al. 2013).

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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

Giant Ground Pangolins are present in a number of protected areas across their range, including National Park of Upper Niger (Guinea), Sapo National Park (Liberia), Tai National Park (Côte d’Ivoire), Mbam Djerem National Park (Cameroon), Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo), Batéké Plateaux, Lopé and Ivindo National Parks (Gabon), Dzanga-Sangha National Park (Central African Republic) and Odzala-Kokoua National Park (Congo Republic) (Kingdon et al. 2013, APWG unpubl. data). While it is listed on Appendix II of CITES, there is a need to develop and enforce protective legislation in many range states. Research is required into the population status of this species, including population parameters and its ability to withstand current and projected hunting pressures. More comprehensive research is also required to quantify hunting pressure and national and international utilisation of this species.

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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

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

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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 "Vulnerable" 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 inches 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 grams. 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. ^ Waterman, C., Pietersen, D., Hywood, L., Rankin, P. & Soewu, D. (2014). "Manis gigantea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 

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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