Giant Pangolin

Giant Pangolin – Measures of Safety

Giant Pangolin illustrated by Ravenari


Measures of safety. Armour and shielding, support and solidarity. Wait until it’s over. Attention to detail. Take a break from the big picture. Boundaries. Ancient gods and spirits. Time to reflect. Avoid the crowds. Tear to get at the truth, you are strong enough. Pride, nobility and dignity.


The giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), is a large, scaly anteater, it is the largest of all the pangolins, which are the most trafficked mammals in the world. They primarily eat ants and termites. They are found in Africa (West Africa to Uganda), and prefer savanna, rainforest and forest habitats, they do not like areas of high altitude. They need readily available sources of water, and preferably big termite populations. As they have no teeth, they cannot chew, so their tongue is extremely long and sticky, and used to gather prey. They have spines in their gut to help with digestion and will swallow stones (gastroliths) to also help with grinding apart their prey. They are extremely important for termite control in their habitats.

Males are larger than females. Giant pangolins have a strong sense of smell. Like all pangolins, the giant pangolin is nocturnal, and also solitary. They can climb trees and rocks. When sleeping, or needing to defend themselves, they will curl up into a ball, protected by their armoured scales. Their scales are made of keratin, and form armoured plates in brown or reddish-brown. They are the only mammals to use keratin in this manner. They have very sturdy skeletons, that assist their need to tear apart hard substrates. They have eyelashes, a long snout, a long prehensile tail and massive claws designed to pull apart termite and ant nests. They are good swimmers. Giant pangolins have poor vision.

Giant pangolins are born with soft scales that harden over time, and their eyes are open. They will secrete a foul odour from their anal glands to keep away predators. They cannot walk when they are born, but will move on their bellies. Offspring are often raised over a period of years, partly because it takes time for them to become strong enough to rip open termite mounds on their own.

Giant pangolins often walk bipedally, using its tail for balance and tucking in its front paws while walking on its hind legs. Because of this, in some global mythologies it has been considered akin to a little but dignified person. They are threatened by deforestation and habitat destruction, as well as poaching for bushmeat and traditional medicine particularly in countries like Taiwan, China and Laos. They are featured in folklore in many cultures all around the world.