Giant Pangolin

The giant pangolin, also called giant ground pangolin, is the largest of all the scaly anteater or pangolin species in the world today. Its body, like that of other pangolins, is mostly covered with brown or reddish-brown scales, which make it look like a walking pinecone. Aside from its armor-like scales, the giant pangolin is distinguished by its long snout, large front claws, and a thick tail that lacks a sensory pad commonly found in tree-dwelling species.

Scientific Classification

Smutsia gigantea

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Smutsia gigantea

Physical Description and Appearance

Size: Its length varies between 50 and 55 in (4.2 and 4.7 ft) with the males being larger than females.

Giant Pangolin

Weight: Although its average mass is not known, an adult giant pangolin was found to have a bodyweight of about 33 kg.

Color: Brown or reddish-brown scales cover much of its body

Body: Its elongated body is armored with overlapping scales, and has long, narrow head with thick eyelids, incredibly long tongue, and strong forelimbs

Scales: Typically 4-5 in long, absent on the abdomen, largest scales occur on the shoulders, back, and thighs, smaller scales are found on the tail and legs


The giant pangolin is distributed across Africa and is mainly found in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Gabon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Senegal.

What Kind of Habitats do Giant Pangolins live in

It inhabits the forests, rainforests, and savannah where there are plenty of termites and available water. It typically seeks shelter in burrows or under heaps of debris.

Giant Pangolin Habitat
Giant Pangolin Size


In captivity, giant pangolins can live for up to 20 years, but in the wild, their life expectancy is not known.


The giant pangolin is an insectivore that does not have the ability to chew because it is toothless. Since it mainly feeds on ants and termites, its diet is rich in protein and fat. It finds these insects by digging deep or tearing open termite nests and anthills.

Behavioral Characteristics

  • Giant pangolins frequently extend and pull their tongues in to become aware of their surroundings. Their tongues are quite sensitive to touch and used for perception.
  • They are nocturnal and solitary animals. Giant pangolins spend their days hidden and stay asleep in the burrows. They occur in low numbers at night and search for food.
  • When feeding, they keep their nostrils, eyes, and ears closed to protect them from the attacks of termites or ants. They can also shake the insects off their body.
  • Giant pangolins are a terrestrial species. Although they are found in forests, they do not climb trees.
Giant Ground Pangolin Size
Giant Ground Pangolin


  • The layer of scales covering their body protects the giant pangolins from predators. When there is a threat, they curl up and roll their body into a tight ball, making it difficult to uncurl and crack. Their scales can also cause deep cuts on the predator’s body.
  • They have a large, stinky anal gland from which they eject a foul-smelling liquid to deter predators.
  • They use their long front claws to remove the rocks and dig deep into ant colonies or termite mounds.
  • Their incredibly long (up to 16 inch), sticky tongue helps them to pick up the ants and termites.

Mating and Reproduction

Giant pangolins, like other pangolin species, have a polygynous mating system, which means a male has more than one female mating partners at a time. Females usually bear one offspring at a time. The baby pangolin is born after a gestation period of about 139 days. The young clings onto the mother’s back after 4 weeks and rides on its back, nursing and feeding on insects. Sexual maturity is attained at about 1-2 years of age.

Giant Pangolin Baby
Giant Pangolin Picture

What do the Baby Giant Pangolins look like

Young giant pangolins weigh approximately 500 g and they are born with their eyes open. They have soft scales, which finally harden. The baby pangolins move on their bellies instead of walking on their legs.

Conservation Status

The giant ground pangolin has been enlisted as a ‘Threatened’ species by the IUCN and was also listed on the CITES Appendix I in January 2017. Its population is now decreasing because of deforestation, habitat destruction, and hunting. From 2011 to 2015, several consignments containing 3,000 kg pangolin meat and more than 5,000 kg pangolin scales were captured. Those were being shipped to China and Laos from Nigeria.

Interesting Facts

  • It is believed that giant pangolins have now become extinct in Rwanda.
  • The giant pangolin, like a biped, can walk upright by balancing its body with its tail.
  • It is susceptible to changes in temperature since it has a slow metabolism and lesser number of body hairs. This scaly anteater, is therefore, found in places where the temperature remains stable.

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