The Giant Pangolin (Manis gigantea), is a species of pangolin. The Giant Pangolin inhabits Africa with a range stretching along the Equator from West Africa to Uganda. It is found mainly in savanna, rainforest, and forest, where there is a large termite population and available water. It does not inhabit high altitude areas. The Giant Pangolin is the largest species of pangolin (scaly anteaters). It belongs to the Manidae family. It was first described by Johann Karl Wilhelm Illiger in 1815.
The average mass of the species has not been measured, but one Giant Pangolin was found to weigh 73 pounds. Males are larger than females, with male body length about 55 inches and female about 47 inches. It is the largest of all pangolins, taking the name “Giant Pangolin” because of this. The scales are usually colored brown or reddish-brown. Like all pangolins, the species has large, armored scales and no hair except for the eyelashes. The Giant Pangolin has a long snout, a long thick tail, and large front claws. The animal has a strong sense of smell and large anal glands. Its secretions may be significant to animal communication. The species walks with most of its weight on its columnar rear legs and curls its front paws, walking on the outside of the wrists rather than the palms to protect the claws. By using its tail for balance, the Giant Pangolin will often walk upright as a biped.
Because of its relatively large size, the Giant Pangolin is particularly well-suited to breaking open termite mounds, done by leaning on the mound and resting its weight on its tail, and then ripping into the mound with its front claws. The combination of weight and physical damage quickly leads to a partial collapse of the mound, exposing the termites. It eats the insects by picking them up with its sticky tongue, which is up to 16 inches long. Like all pangolins, the Giant Pangolin has no teeth and cannot chew its food.
Very little information about the reproduction of the Giant Pangolin is known. Two birth records exist, with one litter in September and another in October, with the young weighing around 18 ounces. As in all pangolins, infants have soft scales that eventually harden and are born with open eyes. They cannot walk on their legs, but can move on their stomach.