Manis temminckiiground pangolin

Geographic Range

The Temminck's pangolin, or Cape pangolin, has a range similar to a backwards "c" stretching from Chad and Sudan in central Africa, down through Kenya and Tanzania, to the northern parts of South Africa. (Kingdon 1997)


This species will inhabit both high- and low-rainfall habitats, including forests, thick brush, or open grasslands and savannah.

(Nowak 1999)

Physical Description

This species measures approximately 40 - 70 cm head and body length, and about the same for the tail. Males are larger than the females.

The name of the Order of these animals, Pholidota, means, "scaled animals". The body of the Temminck's pangolin is covered with moveable, sharp scales, except for the snout, chin, throat, sides of the face, and the belly. The coloration of these scales gives this species a dark olive brown look similar to that of a pine cone and helps it to blend into many different surroundings.

Temminck's pangolins have small, pointed heads with small eyes that are protected by specialized thick eyelids. It lacks teeth, but has a very long (up to 25 cm in length and 0.5 cm in diameter) and sticky tongue for catching insects. This species also has a specialized stomach for digesting food items that have not been chewed. It has five long claws on the end of each limb and the tail is prehensile. (Minelli et al. 1997, Macdonald 1985) (Kingdon, 1997; Macdonald, 1985; Minelli and Minelli, 1997)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    7 to 18 kg
    15.42 to 39.65 lb
  • Range length
    40 to 70 cm
    15.75 to 27.56 in


Individuals live a solitary life, only joining others during mating. Because of their excellent sense of smell, the social interactions of pangolins revolve around advertisement through the spreading of feces and the marking of trees with either urine or a secretion from an anal gland. Males may also battle fiercely for the opportunity to mate with a female.

Temminck's pangolins have a gestation period of about 139 days, resulting in usually one young weighing 200 - 500 grams. They are born in an underground natural shelter, and are first carried outside on the mother's back or tail at between 2 and 4 weeks of age. The young begin to harvest their own food by 3 months of age, but are still carried until they are approximately 3 kg. The females breed at any time of the year, even if they are currently rearing young. (Kingdon 1997, Macdonald 1985) (Kingdon, 1997; Macdonald, 1985)

  • Breeding interval
    The interbirth interval is unknown.
  • Breeding season
    Pangolins breed throughout the year.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    139 days
  • Average weaning age
    3 months

Female pangolins care exclusively for their young, nursing, carrying, and protecting them until they have nearly reached adult size.


This timid species uses its scales as protection from predators. At the slightest hint of confrontation, it will roll into a ball, wrapping its tail and limbs around its body. The scales are sharp and moveable and present quite a challenge to any meal-seeker. It is also almost impossible to pry the pangolin out of its ball position, making for a very good defense. (Minelli et al. 1997)

Temminck's pangolins spend most of their time on the ground, but are also able to climb as well as move very well in the water. They are nocturnal animals that use their good sense of smell to track down food. They walk slowly with the tail dragging behind. (Nowak 1999)

Pangolins create burrows in the ground as a daytime resting space. These dens are usually about 15-20 cm in diameter and extend several meters underground. (Nowak 1999) (Minelli and Minelli, 1997; Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Pangolins have an excellent sense of smell, used to find their insect prey. Little is known about intraspecific communication, but they are likely to use smells, visual cues, sounds, and touch.

Food Habits

The diet of the Temminck's pangolin consists mainly of termites and ants, with an occasional larvae or other soft bodied insect. Ant or termite hills are discovered through the pangolin's keen sense of smell, then dismantled by its long and powerful forelimbs. The pangolin then catches the fleeing insects by flicking its long tongue in and out. It has no teeth, so the stomach has exceptionally thick muscular walls for crushing the food items, which are swallowed whole. A pangolin may also swallow stones and store them in the stomach to aid in the crushing part of the digestion. (Nowak 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects


Pangolins use their thick, keratinized scales and powerful muscles to roll their bodies into nearly impenetrable balls. Few predators will try to capture them, although some large predators may.

Ecosystem Roles

Temminck's pangolins are important predators of colonial insects in the ecosystems in which they live.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Temminck's pangolins are killed by natives in Africa for their scales and meat. The scales are taken for use in various jewelry and art. They are exported to China where the scales are prized for their supposed medicinal value as an antiseptic. The skins are also sent legally to the United States and other countries for the manufacture of leather goods, such as boots and shoes. (Nowak 1999) (Nowak, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no adverse effects of pangolins on humans.

Conservation Status

Temminck's pangolins are vulnerable to population decreases because of their great economic value to humans and habitat loss to agriculture. In addition to being killed for their flesh and scales, they have several predators including lions and hyenas, are subject to brush fires, and may become electrocuted in areas where such fencing exists. (Kingdon 1997)


Jonathan Marceau (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


having more than one female as a mate at one time

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. London: Academic Press.

Macdonald, D. 1985. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File, Inc..

Minelli, A., M. Minelli. 1997. The Great Book of Animals. Philadelphia: Courage Books.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press.