Smutsia gigantea 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Pholidota Manidae

Scientific Name: Smutsia gigantea (Illiger, 1815)
Common Name(s):
English Giant Ground Pangolin, Giant Pangolin
French Grand pangolin, Pangolin géant
Spanish Pangolín Gigante
Manis gigantea Illiger, 1815
Taxonomic Notes: Included in Manis by several authors (with Smutsia sometimes considered a subgenus) and referred to Phataginus by Grubb et al. (1998), but here included in the genus Smutsia, along with Temminck's Ground Pangolin, S. temminckii, following Gaudin et al. (2009).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A4d ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2013-06-27
Assessor(s): Waterman, C., Pietersen, D., Hywood, L., Rankin, P. & Soewu, D.
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M.
Contributor(s): Hoffmann, M. & Akpona, H.
This species is listed as Vulnerable under criteria A4d because it is reasonable to assume that this species has already begun declining and will continue to decline by at least 40% over a 27 year period (nine years past, 18 years future) due mainly to the impact of bushmeat hunting and an increased demand from the international markets.
A generation length of nine years has been used for this assessment; however, it should be noted that there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding this estimate and further research into the life history of S. gigantea is required in order to make a more informed estimate of generation length.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

This species is discontinuously distributed in humid forests in West and Central Africa. It is recorded from Senegal (though there is no evidence of its presence in Gambia) eastwards through Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia (including the vicinity of Mt Nimba; Coe 1975), Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where it has also been reported from the north in Mole National Park (Grubb et al. 1998). There is no information from Togo (Kingdon et al. 2013), although Grubb et al. (1998) map older records from Ghana near Fazao-Malfakassa National Park on the border with Togo. Sayer and Green (1984) recorded the species from Batia on the border of the Pendjari National Park in the north of Benin in the 1970s, and referred to sightings in neighbouring Burkino Faso and Niger (although the species is not included in Lamarque 2004). The presence of this species in Nigeria is unclear, but it may occur in the south. It also occurs on the island of Bioko (Kingdon et al. 2013).

From the eastern bank of the Sanaga River in Cameroon the species is fairly continuously distributed throughout the Congo Basin to Uganda (Kingdon et al. 2013). It has been observed on the lakeshore in west Kenya, close to the Uganda border and there is an authenticated record from the Mahale Mts in western Tanzania, where their presence has been confirmed recently by camera-traps (Kingdon et al. 2013). There are no records from Sudan or Burundi (Kingdon et al. 2013), and they are believed extinct in Rwanda (Bräutigam et al. 1994). Recent pangolin sightings from eastern Rwanda have been referred to S. temminckii (APWG unpubl. data).

The northern limits of the distribution are not well known but can be expected to broadly coincide with those of the tropical lowland rainforest. The northern banks of the Kasai and Tshuapa Rivers apparently define its southern limits within the central forest block (Kingdon et al. 2013).

Countries occurrence:
Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea (Bioko, Equatorial Guinea (mainland)); Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Liberia; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:A solitary, nocturnal species which is difficult to census and as a result there is no reliable information on population abundance or densities. Bräutigam et al. (1994) report the species is believed to be quite rare, declining throughout its range, and extinct in Rwanda and Niger.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Smutsia gigantea occurs in lowland tropical moist and swamp forest, and in forest-savanna-cultivation mosaic habitats. It is also found in some areas in the uplands of Itombwe, where soils are suitable for its digging. It feeds exclusively on ants and termites. A terrestrial species, animals spend the daytime resting under piles of plant debris, in thickets, under fallen tree roots, in partially opened termitaria, or in burrows (Kingdon et al. 2013). The female gives birth to a single young, probably annually. Generation time is estimated at nine years based on the calculated generation time of S. temminckii (D. Pietersen unpubl. data), but may be longer.

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):9
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Smutsia gigantea is subject to exploitative threats. Individuals are hunted for their meat, which may be consumed locally or traded as wild meat, and for their scales, which are used for cultural and ethno-medicinal purposes, including in traditional African medicine, muti or juju (Bräutigam et al. 1994).

Hunting for local utilization has historically been the main threat to African pangolins and while there is little evidence of international trade on the continent (e.g. Soewu and Ayodele 2009, Bräutigam et al. 1994), it seems likely that not all pangolin derivatives for sale in regional markets are of domestic origin. Intercontinental trade of pangolins to Asia, typically for the traditional medicine markets in China and Viet Nam, is a growing threat to African pangolins, with intercontinental trade in S. gigantea to Asia having been documented in 2012 (see Challender and Hywood 2012). The low detection rates associated with wildlife trade suggest that documented pangolin seizures comprise only a small fraction of the actual trade, with real volumes potentially at unsustainable levels (Challender and Hywood 2012).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

As with other pangolins, S. gigantea is subject to widespread exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine and is regularly recorded in bushmeat markets (Colyn et al. 1987, Bräutigam et al. 1994, Fa et al. 1995, Bowen-Jones 1998, Ayeni et al. 2001). Colyn et al. (1987) found that this species comprised one-tenth of the total number of pangolins (~100) on sale as bushmeat in rural areas around Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2004, Giant Ground Pangolins formed 5,019 kg in terms of harvested biomass (including either whole animals and/or animal parts) from five markets monitored in Gabon, compared to 2,053 for White-bellied Pangolins and 335 kg for Black-bellied Pangolins (Kingdon et al. 2013). Numbers of Giant Ground Pangolin for sale in bushmeat markets in Nigeria have increased over the past decade as White-bellied Pangolins become harder to source (D. Soewu pers. comm 2013).

Figures from bushmeat markets are likely to underestimate the actual offtake; Fa et al. (1995) noted that survey records of Giant Ground Pangolin meat in the markets of Bioko were misleading as only 10% made it to market. Similarly, in Liberia, only 25% of the harvest is sold, as local hunters preferred it to other species, while harvest rates in six communities adjacent to Sapo NP were found to be unsustainable (Kingdon et al. 2013).

The breakdown of taboos protecting the species has led to increased hunting pressure in some areas. For example, local protection afforded by totems in western Côte d’Ivoire has broken down due to refugee movements throughout the region as a result of conflicts in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire (Kingdon et al. 2013).

The species is occasionally recorded in international trade, including one instance of four live specimens reported as exported from Togo in 1984 (e.g. Bräutigam et al. 1994, Chaber et al. 2010). There are no reports of trade in live specimens in the CITES trade reports between 1996 and 2011, but the true scale of the illegal international trade is unknown. Intercontinental trade is a growing threat to Africa’s pangolins; in 2012 an unknown quantity of Giant Ground Pangolin scales from Guinea were seized by Belgium customs en route to China, suggesting there is intercontinental trade in this species from Africa to Asia (Challender and Hywood 2012). As this species appears to be heavily exploited throughout its range, it is likely threatened with extirpation wherever human populations are high or marketing networks along forest roads and rivers are in operation. Its large size, low reproductive rate and terrestrial habits make it particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation (Kingdon et al. 2013).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Giant Ground Pangolins are present in a number of protected areas across their range, including National Park of Upper Niger (Guinea), Sapo National Park (Liberia), Tai National Park (Côte d’Ivoire), Mbam Djerem National Park (Cameroon), Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo), Batéké Plateaux, Lopé and Ivindo National Parks (Gabon), Dzanga-Sangha National Park (Central African Republic) and Odzala-Kokoua National Park (Congo Republic) (Kingdon et al. 2013, APWG unpubl. data). While it is listed on Appendix II of CITES, there is a need to develop and enforce protective legislation in many range states. Research is required into the population status of this species, including population parameters and its ability to withstand current and projected hunting pressures. More comprehensive research is also required to quantify hunting pressure and national and international utilisation of this species.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.8. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.9. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over part of range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Area based regional management plan:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:Not Applicable
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:No
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:Unknown
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.1. Habitat shifting & alteration
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.2. Harvest level trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.3. Trade trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Ayeni, J.S.O., Tah, E.A. and Mdaihli, M. 2001. A survey of wildlife utilisation in Boki and Anyang Tribes. Report submitted to the Cameroonian (MINEF)-GERMAN (GTZ) Project for the Protection of Forests around Akwaya (PROFA), MAMFE.

Bowen-Jones, E. 1998. The African bushmeat trade: A recipe for extinction. The Ape Alliance.

Bräutigam, A., Howes, J., Humphreys, T. and Hutton, J. 1994. Recent information on the status and utilization of African pangolins. TRAFFIC Bulletin 15: 15-22.

Chaber, A., Allebone-Webb, S., Lignereux, Y., Cunningham, A. and Rowcliffe, J.M. 2010. The scale of illegal meat importation from Africa to Europe via Paris. Conservation Letters 3: 317-323.

Challender, D.W.S. and Hywood, L. 2012. African pangolins under increased pressure from poaching and intercontinental trade. TRAFFIC Bulletin 24(2): 53-55.

Coe, M. 1975. Mammalian ecological studies on Mount Nimba, Liberia. Mammalia 39: 523-587.

Colyn, M., Dudu, A. and Mbaelele, M. 1987. Exploitation du petit et moyen gibier des forêts ombrophiles du Zaire. Nature et Faune 3: 22-39.

Fa, J.E., Juste, J., Perez del Val, J. and Castroviejo, J. 1995. Impact of market hunting on mammal species in Equatorial Guinea. Conservation Biology 9: 1107-1115.

Gaudin, T.J., Emry, R.J. and Wible, J.R. 2009. The phylogeny of living and extinct pangolins (Mammalia, Pholidota) and associated taxa: A morphology based analysis. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 16: 235-305.

Grubb, P., Jones, T.S., Davies, A.G., Edberg, E., Starin, E.D. and Hill, J.E. 1998. Mammals of Ghana, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. Trendrine Press, Zennor, St Ives, Cornwall, UK.

IUCN. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. Available at: (Accessed: 24 July 2014).

Kingdon, J.S. 1971. East African Mammals. An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Academic Press, London, UK.

Kingdon. J.S., Hoffmann, M. and Hoyt, R. 2013. Smutsia gigantea Giant Ground Pangolin. In: J.S. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa. Volume 5: Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids, Rhinoceroses, Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Lamarque, F. 2004. Les Grands Mammifères du Complexes WAP. CIRAD/ UNION EUROPEENNE/PARC REGIONAL ECOPAS/UICN, Paris, France.

Sayer, J.A. and Green, A.A. 1984. The distribution and status of large mammals in Benin. 14(1): 37.

Soewu, D.A. and Ayodele, I.A. 2009. Utilisation of Pangolin (Manis spp.) in traditional Yorubic medicine in Ijebu province, Ogun State, Nigeria. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 5: 39-49.

Citation: Waterman, C., Pietersen, D., Hywood, L., Rankin, P. & Soewu, D. 2014. Smutsia gigantea. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T12762A45222061. . Downloaded on 18 June 2018.
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