Welcome to the fifteenth edition of Shakati Bush Facts. In this edition we will be sharing with you a special find which we have made on the Shakati Private Game Reserve, namely the Ground Pangolin! We are quite excited to share this find with you!

Ground Pangolin

What is a Pangolin?

The Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) is a nocturnal mammal and is almost completely covered in overlapping, protective scales (razor sharp), which makes up about 20% of their body weight. The scales are composed of keratin, the same material that forms human hair and fingernails. Mature adults are light brown, olive, and dark brown in colour, while young are pale brown or pink in colour. Pangolins are also capable of emitting noxious acid from glands near the anus, similar to a skunk, to ward off predators. The African Pangolin measures over 40 – 70 cm in length and weighs up to 18 Kg.

When threatened, Pangolins rolls up into a ball, thus protecting its vulnerable belly. The Pangolin has stout limbs which are adapted for digging, with three long, curved claws, which are designed to demolish termite nests and to dig burrow. The front legs are also shorter than the hind legs. They have long, broad tails and small, conical heads with jaws that lack teeth. Pangolins also have long, rod-shaped, muscular tongues to reach and lap up ants and termites in cavities.

The spoor shows the rounded pads of the hind-feet with usually four nails touching the ground, the occasional scrape of the tail and the mark of the front edges of the long, curved, front claws.

Pangolin (3)

Photograph: Andre Pretorius

Different Names of the Ground Pangolin

The name “pangolin” comes from the Malay word pengguling, meaning “one who rolls up”. The Ground Pangolin is also called the Temminck’s pangolin or the Cape pangolin. The Pangolin was named after Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck. The Pangolin is sometimes called a “scaly ant-eater”

Other common names for the Temminck’s ground pangolin are the: Steppe pangolin, South African pangolin, Ietermagog (Afrikaans), Kgaga (Sotho), Xikwaru (Tsonga), Khwara (Venda)


Pangolin in the Ecosystem

Ground Pangolins prefers savannah woodland, but it is also found on floodplain grasslands, rocky slopes and sandveld. Pangolins are picky eaters and feed on ants and termites from which they consume large quantities. They thus help to control population of these arthropods. It is estimated that an adult can consume about 70 million insects annually and approximately 20,000 ants per meal.

Although it is capable of digging its own burrow, the ground pangolin prefers to occupy those abandoned by warthogs or aardvarks or to lie in dense vegetation. The Ground Pangolin’s main predators are lion, leopards, hyenas, and humans.

Temminck’s ground pangolin home ranges have been estimated to be roughly 5.6 – 11 km2 for older males and the older individuals of both sexes having larger home ranges than females and younger individuals

Pangolin (1)

Photograph: Andre Pretorius

Threatened Status

As a group, pangolins are among the most critically endangered animals in the world and are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. The assessors state, “there is an inferred past/ongoing and projected future population reduction of 30-40% over a 27-year period (nine years past, 18 years future; generation length estimated at nine years) based primarily on ongoing exploitation for traditional medicine and bushmeat throughout the species’ range and evidence of increased intercontinental trade to Asia.” All eight extant pangolin species are now considered to be threatened with extinction.

Pangolin (2)

Photograph: Andre Pretorius


Shakati Private Game reserve is committed to nature conservation in all forms, and conserving the Ground Pangolin is no exception. The Ground Pangolin is a rare find due to its threatened status, and that’s why this is such a special find.


See you next time!










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