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Termites and water as basic needs

Manis gigantea has the appearance of an armoured animal and the secretive behaviour of a spy. In fact, it even leaves footprints that resemble those of a small elephant.
On average, males are about 140 cm and female about 125 cm. They are covered with large, thick scales which are usually brown or reddish brown. Long claws protrude from the front feet and they also have a long, wide tail.

The giant pangolin will only live in forests and savannas that meet 2 vital criteria: abundant termites and available water. In these habitats, they can dig large burrows, up to 40 m long, 5 m below the ground.

Pangolin nightlife

Pangolins are creatures of the night. They leave their burrows after midnight to hunt, most likely using their sense of smell.

They can be seen to walk on all four legs, or on their hind legs by using their tail for balance. When walking on all four, pangolins keep their front paws curled to protect the sharp front claws.

Defence strategy

A startled pangolin will cover its head with its front legs, exposing its scales to any potential predator. If touched or grabbed it will roll up completely into a ball, while the sharp scales on the tail can be used to lash out.


Giant pangolins have become vulnerable due to hunting for their meat and the use of their scales as love charms.

Ciszek D. 1999. "Manis gigantea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed 12/2/06.