The giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) is the largest species in the family of pangolins or scaly anteaters.

As in all pangolins, infants have soft scales that eventually harden, and are born with open eyes. Learn more about the pangolin, why all eight pangolin species are at risk of extinction, and the conservation efforts needed to save them. Other anti-ant features include a special valve in its nose that closes, no exterior ears, and thick eyelids. 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 is solitary and comes out to feed only at night. ZSL uses cookies on this website to enhance your user experience Curiously, it also has eyelashes. Facts: The giant pangolin is the largest extant species of pangolin. If you’ve never heard of the pangolin, you’re not alone. They are covered with big, thick scales, typically brown or … It looks like an armored animal and behaves in the secretive manner of a spy.

The scales also come in handy when the pangolin snacks on its favorite treat: ants. While scientists don't know how many giant pangolins there are, they're believed to be slightly better off than pangolins in Asia. Its diet mainly consists of ants and termites, which it finds by tearing open anthills and termite nests, both subterranean and mound-type. Pangolins live alone except when it comes time to mate. The giant pangolin has a long snout, a long, thick tail, and large front claws. The Giant pangolin is the biggest and the rarest of the African species of pangolin. They contained 3,000 kg (6,600 lb) pangolin meat and close to 5,500 kg (12,100 lb) pangolin scales that were destined to China and Laos. Although its geographic range overlaps slightly with the savannah and desert dwelling ground pangolin, the giant pangolin prefers moist habitats and being close to water sources. By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies.

In fact, pangolins as a group are believed to be the most trafficked mammals in the world. Distinguishing characteristics: The giant pangolin is the largest living pangolin species, weighing up to 35 kg.

But as pangolin trafficking shifts from Asia to Africa, their population trend has been downward, and the species is listed on the IUCN’s Red List as vulnerable. All rights reserved. Like all pangolins, the giant pangolin is a specialized insectivore that lacks teeth and the ability to chew. The animal has a strong sense of smell and large anal glands.

And like all pangolins, Smutsia gigantea is covered in protective scales over much of its body, making it look like a walking pinecone. The giant pangolin inhabits many countries, with the largest concentration in Uganda, Tanzania, and western Kenya. World Pangolin Day celebrations highlight pangolin conservation in a critical year and decade for biodiversity, Statement from Pangolin Specialist Group Chair on possible link between pangolins and coronavirus, Reflecting on 2019 and looking ahead to 2020, IUCN Red List update highlights need for concerted conservation action for pangolins, Snapped! Its secretions may be significant to animal communication. It does not inhabit high-altitude areas.

Males are larger than females, with male body lengths about 140 cm (4.6 ft) and females about 125 cm (4.1 ft). Distribution: Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d’Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea (Equatorial Guinea (mainland)); Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Liberia; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda.

Reproduction: The giant pangolin gives birth to a single young. [4], The giant pangolin has been listed on CITES Appendix I since January 2017.

[1], Learn how and when to remove this template message, "The Phylogeny of Living and Extinct Pangolins (Mammalia, Pholidota) and Associated Taxa: A Morphology Based Analysis", "The trade of African pangolins to Asia: a brief case study of pangolin shipments from Nigeria",, Species endangered by human consumption for medicinal or magical purposes, Articles needing additional references from October 2013, All articles needing additional references, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 20 October 2020, at 05:50. It takes its long front claws and uses them like a backhoe to pry up rocks and rip into ant colonies (and termite mounds, its other food source). Their scales are especially in demand for traditional Chinese medicine, though there is no scientific evidence they have any medicinal value. 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.

It eats the insects by picking them up with its sticky tongue, which is up to 16 in (41 cm) long. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- During age 6–8 weeks, the young often spew a yellow secretion from their anal glands(that is often said to smell of decay and cabbage) to keep predators and other animals from taking advantage of their mothers. If a predator like a leopard or a python gets too close, the pangolin rolls into a tight ball. What are pangolins? Pangolins don’t have many defenses; they don’t even have teeth.

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Like its pangolin cousins, Smutsia gigantea is hunted for its meat and scales. Illustration by Taylor Maggiacomo, National Geographic, Pangolins: The Most Trafficked Mammal You've Never Heard Of. With its tail tucked, scales cover every part of its exposed body, making it a tough nut to crack.