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Pangolins: Pholidota

Ground Pangolin (manis Temminckii): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Ground pangolins, also called Cape pangolins, have a combined head and body length of 20 to 24 inches (50 to 60 centimeters), and a tail length that ranges from 14 to 20 inches (35 to 50 centimeters). They have no external ears. The body and tail of these animals are covered with scales that are a grayish brown to dark olive brown. The scales are sharp and moveable. Skin is whitish with fine, dark hairs. Specialized thick eyelids protect their small eyes.

These animals have hind feet with blunt claws that are padded, like those of an elephant. Their forefeet have large, digging claws. Males are generally larger than the females.

Geographic range: Ground pangolins are found in Africa, specifically from Chad and Sudan in central Africa, down through Kenya Ground pangolins live in forests, thick brush, and grasslands. During the day these animals sleep in burrows that they dig. (© Nigel J. Dennis/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.) and Tanzania, to the northern parts of South Africa. The ground pangolin is the most common and most widely distributed pangolin in Kenya and Tanzania.

Habitat: Ground pangolins live in forests, thick brush, and grasslands. They live in areas with both high and low rainfall amounts.

Diet: Ground pangolins feed on certain species of termites and ants. They tear open termite mounds and anthills, both on the ground and in trees.

Behavior and reproduction: This nocturnal species lives on the land, yet occasionally climbs trees and bushes. Ground pangolins can move quickly, up to 160 feet (50 meters) per minute. They often do move slowly, walking on the hind legs. They keep their body horizontal to the ground when moving, using their tail for balance as it drags behind them. During the day these animals sleep in burrows that they dig.

Ground pangolins locate prey by smell and feed frequently—about ninety times every night. Pangolins are known to crack pieces of termite-infested wood across their chests to get to their prey. They also scratch in animal droppings for ants. When the baby is two to four weeks old the mother will carry it around on her back or tail. Offspring will feed by themselves at about three months old.

Ground pangolins and people: The pangolins are prized for the supposed medicinal properties of their various body parts.

Conservation status: The IUCN lists ground pangolins as Near Threatened. ∎



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Macdonald, David, ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1984.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th ed. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.


"Pangolins in Profile." Asia Africa Intelligence Wire (August 4, 2002).

"Wildlife Markets and Disease Transmission: The Problem Is, Pigs Do Fly." Life Science Weekly (July 28, 2003): 24.

Wise, Jeff. "Get Your Pangolins Here." Esquire (July 1994): 30.

Web sites:

Myers, Phil. "Pholidota." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Pholidota.html (accessed on May 22, 2004).

"Pangolin or Scaly Anteater." NepalNet. http://www.panasia.org.sg/nepalnet/ecology/pangolin.htm (accessed on May 22, 2004).

"Pangolin, Temnick's ground." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. http://ecos.fws.gov/species_profile/SpeciesProfile?spcode=A060 (accessed on May 22, 2004).

"Pholidota." American Zoo. http://www.americazoo.com/goto/index/mammals/pholidota.htm (accessed on May 22, 2004).

"Wildlives: African Animals." African Wildlife Foundation. http://www.awf.org/wildlives/178 (accessed on May 5, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsPangolins: Pholidota - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Pangolins And People, Ground Pangolin (manis Temminckii): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS