Giant Ground Pangolin (Smutsia gigantea)
This is the largest of the African pangolin species, and is also the rarest. It is a nocturnal, terrestrial species, inhabiting forests and forest-savanna mosaics in Central and West Africa, marginally entering East Africa as well. Adults may attain a length of 1.5 m and weigh up to 33 kg, but individuals of this size are rare. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and the population is believed to be declining.
Giant Ground Pangolins are solitary and predominantly nocturnal. They inhabit tropical lowland forests, riparian forests and savannahs, and appear to be highly dependent on water. They avoid transformed habitat, and are thus highly susceptible to habitat transformation. During the day individuals take refuge in holes, in partially opened termite mounds, under debris or in thickets. They do not dig their own holes to sleep in, but rather rely on abandoned holes that were dug by other animals.
Nothing is known about the breeding biology of this species. It is believed to have a similar breeding biology to Temminck's Ground Pangolin, i.e. female giving birth to a single offspring probably only every second year. The baby stays with the mother until it is old enough to fend for itself.
They feed exclusively on ants and termites, although the exact species that they prey on have not yet been recorded. Termite mounds and ant nests are broken open with the large, muscular front limbs. Large terrestrial termite mounds that have hard exteriors are rarely broken open, instead Giant Ground Pangolins appear to forage more on termite species that do not build hard mounds.
This species is extensively traded for both local bushmeat and Traditional African medicine, and it derivatives are increasingly being smuggled to Asia for the Traditional Chinese Medicine trade. The rate of harvest is believed to far exceed the breeding rate of this species, and as such the population is believed to be declining.
Giant Ground Pangolins occur in two apparently disjunct populations. The smaller West African population is largely restricted to coastal countries, while it has a wider distribution in Central Africa, very marginally entering East Africa as well. Throughout its range individuals are largely restricted to large conservation areas, where it is at least afforded some protection.
Ayeni, J.S.O., Tah, E.A. and Mdaihli, M. 2001. A survey of wildlife utilisation in Boki and Anyang Tribes. Report submitted to the Cameroonian (MINEF)-GERMAN (GTZ) Project for the Protection of Forests around Akwaya (PROFA), MAMFE.
Bowen-Jones, E. 1998. The African bushmeat trade: A recipe for extinction. The Ape Alliance.
Bräutigam, A., Howes, J., Humphreys, T. and Hutton, J. 1994. Recent information on the status and utilization of African pangolins. TRAFFIC Bulletin 15: 15-22.
Chaber, A., Allebone-Webb, S., Lignereux, Y., Cunningham, A. and Rowcliffe, J.M. 2010. The scale of illegal meat importation from Africa to Europe via Paris. Conservation Letters 3: 317-323.
Challender, D.W.S. and Hywood, L. 2012. African pangolins under increased pressure from poaching and intercontinental trade. TRAFFIC Bulletin 24(2): 53-55.
Coe, M. 1975. Mammalian ecological studies on Mount Nimba, Liberia. Mammalia 39: 523-587.
Colyn, M., Dudu, A. and Mankoto ma Mbaelele. 1987. Exploitation du petit et moyen gibier des forêts ombrophiles du Zaire. Nature et Faune 3: 22-39.
Fa, J.E., Seymour, S., Dupain, J., Amin, R., Albrechtsen, L. and Macdonald, D. 2006. Getting to grips with the magnitude of exploitation: Bushmeat in the Cross-Sanaga rivers region, Nigeria and Cameroon. Biological Conservation 129: 497-510.
Gaubert, P. 2011. Order Pholidota. In: Wilson, D. E. and Mittermeier, R. A. (eds). Handbook of the mammals of the world Volume 2: Hoofed Mammals, pp. 82-103. Lynx Editions (in association with Conservation International and IUCN).
Gaudin, T.J., Emry, R.J. and Wible, J.R. 2009. The phylogeny of living and extinct pangolins (Mammalia, Pholidota) and associated taxa: A morphology based analysis. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 16: 235-305.
Grubb, P., Jones, T.S., Davies, A.G., Edberg, E., Starin, E.D. and Hill, J.E. 1998. Mammals of Ghana, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. Trendrine Press, Zennor, St Ives, Cornwall, UK.
IUCN. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Kingdon. J.S., Hoffmann, M. and Hoyt, R. 2013. Smutsia gigantea Giant Ground Pangolin. In: J.S. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds). The Mammals of Africa. Volume 5: Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids, Rhinoceroses. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.
Lamarque, F. 2004. Les Grands Mammifères du Complexes WAP. CIRAD/ UNION EUROPEENNE/PARC REGIONAL ECOPAS/UICN, Paris, France.
Sayer, J.A. and Green, A.A. 1984. The distribution and status of large mammals in Benin. Mammal Review 14(1): 37-50.
Soewu, D.A. and Ayodele, I.A. 2009. Utilisation of Pangolin (Manis sps.) in traditional Yorubic medicine in Ijebu province, Ogun State, Nigeria. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 5: 39-49.