Giant Pangolin

This type of mammal specialize in eating ants and termites, but recent scientific work has shown that, although aardvarks and pangolins share some superficial resemblance and behaviour, they do not have common ancestry. Rather, specialist ant-eating mammals evolved independently several times. This is not surprising, given the abundance of ants and termites found in almost all habitats around the world.

The giant pangolin is the largest of all seven pangolin species (only four of which live in Africa) and lives in the forests of Central Africa. It forages on the ground in the dead of night. A giant pangolin seldom emerges from its burrow before midnight. It digs its own burrow using the long and sturdy claws on its forepaws. The burrows can be immense affairs, reaching 40 m (130 ft) in length.

As with all pangolins, the only hairs on a giant pangolin are its eyelashes. Instead of hairs, it is covered in thick scales. The claws on the forelegs are long. They are used for ripping open ants' nests.

When walking through the forest, the giant pangolin puts most of its weight on to its thick back legs. It uses its tail as a counterbalance so that it can free up its forepaws for digging for food. When it does walk on all fours, the forefeet have to be twisted to the side to protect their crucial claws.

The mighty claws are used for ripping into nests and mounds; then the pangolin uses its long, sticky tongue to lick up the exposed insects.

Distribution: Central Africa from Senegal to Uganda and Angola.

Habitat: Rainforests and grasslands.

Food: Ants and termites. Up to 200,000 ants are eaten in one night.

Size: 1.25 - 1.4 m (4 - 4.5 ft); 33kg (72.75 lb).

Maturity: 2 years.

Breeding: Litters born in September and October.

Life span: 10 years.

Status: Common.