Giant African millipedes are dark brown to black in color and can be identified by their large, rounded bodies with many obvious segments and legs.
Giant African millipedes range from 4 to 12 inches (10.2-30.5 cm) in length.
In the wild, adult millipedes are detritivores, consuming dead and decaying organic matter. The millipedes at Cosley Zoo are fed fruits and vegetables.
To reproduce, a male wraps itself around a female and deposits sperm onto her body. The female then lays hundreds of eggs in a hole in the ground. After about three months, the eggs hatch. The young are white in color and only have a few body segments. They molt their exoskeletons within the first 12 hours after hatching. There is no parental care after the young hatch. It takes several years for a millipede to reach maturity.
Giant African millipedes are found in the rain forests of subtropical western Africa. They are most often found in warm, dark places on the forest floor such as rotting wood and burrows. Giant African millipedes are known to live communally.
In the wild, giant African millipedes can live between five and seven years. In human care, their life expectancy increases to up to 10 years.
Giant African millipedes are sometimes kept as pets. As detritivores, millipedes play an important role in their ecosystems: consuming the decaying plant material speeds up the time it takes to recycle the nutrients stored in these substances, and the nutrients are then returned into the environment in a more easily used form through the millipedes’ feces.