Species of the week

Temminck’s Ground Pangolin, the coated body mammal with keratinous scales, able to roll like a ball and rarely seen by humans.

Common Name: Pangolin; Temminck’s Ground Pangolin
Scientific Name: Smutsia temminckii

Class: Mammalia
Order: Pholidota
Family: Manidae

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Diet: Insectivorous. It feeds on ants and termites.

Size: It can reach 1.3 metres at its adult stage and the females are a little bigger than males, with a body weight that can vary between 5 to 16 kg.

Longevity: about 20 years in the wild.

Temminck’s Ground Pangolin is an animal covered dorsal, from the head to the tail, and laterally by brown keratinous scales. There are known eight species over the world, which represent Manidae’s family. Its body width and the brown color of the scales are the characteristics that differentiate this species among the other pangolins.


S. temminckii has a conical shape, small head, long tail, a long sticky tongue and no tooth. Usually it uses its posterior members for locomotion and its tail to balance itself. The front members, are robust with claws and used for digging.

The Temminck’s Ground Pangolin has a solitary behavior, generally nocturnal. Sometimes runs when it is threatened but normally it rolls itself into a tight defensive ball, protecting the head and underbelly against threats. The scales are not just for protection against predators (leopards and hyenas), but also to avoid bites end stings from its preys, as well as external parasites.


Smutsia temminckii has its evolutionary origins from north hemisphere and is normally adapted to arid environments. It is found at habitats like woodlands, savannas, sock slopes and sometimes also in wetlands. This species has preference for habitats with sufficient populations of ants and termites, and with holes and detritus that it can use as shelters.



This species can be found from southeastern Chad, through South Sudan, much of East Africa and southern Africa as far south as the Northern Cape and North West Provinces of South Africa and northeast KwaZulu-Natal Province. The northern limits of the distribution are not well defined, although the species has been recorded from extreme Northeast Central African Republic, southeastern Chad and South Sudan.


The individuals of S. temminckii reproduce once a year and generally give birth to a single juvenile for each gestation period, with rare cases of twins. The gestation period has 105 to 140 days. These animals have parental cares. The juveniles stay with their mother during the first three months, and sometimes one more month with the father. Juveniles become active and disperse approximately one year after birth.


Anthropogenic pressure makes this species increasingly threatened. Electrocution, by electrified fences in conservation areas, and habitat loss, by uncontrolled fires and deforestation, are the main factors threating S. temminckii. Hunting, for bush meet, and massive exploration for scales and some body parts for traditional medicine and others traditional proposes, road mortality, gin traps and intoxication are also considered threats to this species. Due to these factors, the actual trend of Temminck’s Ground Pangolin populations is to decrease.


The Pangolin’s anatomical characteristics, with conic-shaped head, long sticky tongue, robust front members with claws and the lack of tooth, are an adaptation to the diet of this mammal (ants and termites).


  • de Beer, C, (2013). Insights into the genetics of the Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), University of the Free State
  • Pietersen, D., Mckechnie, A. & Jansen, R. (2014). A review of the anthropogenic threats faced by Temminckii’s ground pangolin, Smutsia temminckii, in southern Africa. South Africa Journal of Wildlife Research 44(2): 167 -178
  • IUCN
  • Stuart, C. & Stuart, M. (2015). Mammals of Southern Africa. Struik Natures Publishers. Cape Town