The Ground Pangolin is one of four species of pangolin found in Africa. They have a body length between 50 and 60 cms (20 – 23.5 inches), a tail length between 40 and 50 cms (16 – 20 inches) and they weigh between 15 and 18 Kgs (33 – 40 lbs).
With the exception of its underside, the Ground Pangolin is covered in extremely hard, brown coloured scales. It rolls up into a ball to protect itself when it is threatened and it can also use the scales on its long, broad tail as a form of defence, to slash at attackers. They also have anal scent glands that emit a foul, strong smelling fluid.
Ground Pangolins have a very small head, small forelegs and powerful hind legs. They also have no teeth and they lack external ears. Their eyesight is poor but they have good hearing and a good sense of smell.
Their tongue is extremely long, and it can reach lengths of up to 40 cms (16 inches). In a resting position the tongue is pulled back and stored in a pouch in its chest cavity. To enable them to catch termites and ants their salivary glands produce a sticky mucus which coats their tongue.
They preen themselves by using their hind claws to lift their scales and scratch their skin. They also use their long, tongue to remove insects from beneath their scales.
Ground Pangolins are the most widespread pangolin in Africa. They are found in woodlands and savannahs from East to South Africa and they are mainly solitary. They spend their days in their burrow and are active at night.
Ground Pangolins mainly feed on ants and termites. They rip open mounds with their claws and use their long, sticky tongue to eat their prey.
After a gestation period of 4 – 5 months, 1 – 2 young are born in a burrow. At birth the young are 15 cms (6 inches) in length and they weigh 340 g (12 oz). After 2 days their pale, soft scales begin to harden and after 1 month they will accompany their mother out of the burrow and begin to eat termites.
They are weaned when they reach 3 – 4 months old and if they are out with their mother and she senses danger, the young pangolins will slip beneath her and they will be protected when she rolls up.
Leopards, hyenas and humans are the mainpredators of Ground Pangolins.
There are no subspecies of the Ground Pangolin.
Ground Pangolins are also known as:
The weight of their scales makes up approximately 20% of their total weight.
As pangolins have no teeth, their stomach is specially designed to grind up their food, with the aid of the sand and small stones that they consume.