Ground pangolin

Manis temminckii

SUBFAMILY Smutsiinae


Manis temminckii Smuts, 1832, northern Cape Province, South Africa.


English: Cape pangolin, South African pangolin, Temminck's ground pangolin, scaly anteater; French: Pangolin de Tem-minck; Spanish: Pangolin del cabo.


Ground pangolins have a head and body length of 20-24 in (50-60 cm), a tail length of 14-20 in (35-50 cm), and a weight of 33.0-39.6 lb (15-18 kg). (Ground pangolins are similar in most respect to Chinese pangolins.) They do not have external ears, have scales on the tail (but do not have scales underneath the tail), and the rear part of the breastbone is very long. The hind feet have broad sole cushions and blunt claws, and the forefeet contain large digging claws. Their sharp scales are large and moveable, with colorations of grayish brown to dark brown. Scale coloration helps them to blend into many different surroundings. The skin is whitish with fine, dark hairs. Ground pangolins have small, pointed heads and small eyes that are protected by specialized thick eyelids. They bury their feces in small depressions that it scrapes in the ground.


From Chad and Sudan in central Africa, south through Kenya and Tanzania, to Namibia and the northern parts of South Africa.


Ground pangolins prefer steppes, prairies, thick brush, open grasslands, and savannas with both high and low rainfall amounts. They show little territorial behavior. Burrows are usually about 6-8 in (15-20 cm) in diameter, and extend several feet (meters) underground.


Ground pangolins are nocturnal, ground-dwellers (terrestrial) animals that occasionally climb bushes and trees. They are solitary animals, only joining together during mating. The species dig burrows inside which to sleep during the day. Ground pangolins move rapidly over the ground, sometimes up to 160 ft (50 m) per minute. They often halt, rise with the support of the tail, sniff the air, and look for possible predators.


They tear open termite mounds and ant nests, both in trees and on the ground, with their large claws, and lick up insects and their larvae. They are selective in what species of termites they eat. The termites of the genera Amitermes, Ancistrotermes, Macrotermes, Microcerotermes, Microtermes, Odontotermes, and Trinervitermes are most often eaten by first detecting (with their keen sense of smell) these preferred genera before opening the hill.


Males may fight for the opportunity to mate. Females breed at any time of the year, even if they are still rearing other young. The gestation period is about 120-140 days. Females give birth to one, sometimes two, young at a time. Young are born in ground dens. Birth weight is 10.7-14.2 oz (300-400 g). They are carried outside on the mother's back or tail at 2-4 weeks of age. Young will begin to feed on their own by three months of age, but are still carried until they weigh about 7 lb (3 kg). Weaning, sexual maturity, and life span are generally unknown.


Lower Risk/Near Threatened. This species is very vulnerable to population decreases because of its great economic value to humans and habitat loss to agriculture.


They are often killed for their flesh and scales. Ground pangolins are called bwana mganga "bwana doctor" in East Africa because every part of their body is said to possess healing properties. ♦

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