A strange-looking creature likened to a living pinecone, with a long prehensile tail.
Unknown, but one pangolin has lived 13 years in captivity.
75-85cm long with a 65-80cm long tail.
An animal with short legs covered in brownish red overlapping scales making it look like a pinecone. It has a long, slightly-flattened prehensile tail (equally scaled), and 5 long curved claws on each foot. Its head is small and pointed with very small eyes protected by thickened eyelids, and it has a long sticky tongue for catching ants and termites.
Across the equator of Africa from West Africa to Uganda.
Forests and savannah.
Ants and termites.
Pangolins are shy and mainly solitary, using scent marking around their territories. Giant pangolins spend most of their time on the ground, sleeping through the day in a burrow and coming out at night to search for ant and termite nests by smell. They walk mainly on their hind legs, although they keep their body horizontal to the ground, dragging their tail behind them. They are also proficient climbers and can swim. They use their claws to break open ant or termite nests and capture the occupants with their long sticky tongue. They can take up to 200,000 ants each night.
Little is known about the reproduction of this species. Two birth records indicate that a litter was found in September and another in October. In other pangolins single young are born in a burrow and after several weeks are carried on their mother's tail, gradually learning to forage for themselves after several months.
Little known, although not thought to be threatened.
Fossil pangolins are first found in the Eocene in Europe. In the Messel shales of Germany they are particularly well preserved, showing that their characteristic scales were already developed. Recent DNA analysis has shown them to be bizarre offshoots of the Carnivora - the carnivores such as cats, dogs, bears, hyenas, civets and mongooses.