Pangolin!

December 15, 2010  By: Gretchen

Everyone that has been on safari knows that the most elusive animal isn’t one of the big five, or even one of the ‘little five’. It’s the pangolin. That’s why this game report from Kapinga Camp in the Busanga Plains of Zambia is so special!

As part of my continued lion research here on the Busanga Plains, it means that I spend many hours in the field. Although it can get tiring, and conditions are sometimes quite tough, it is also very rewarding…

Sitting with the Papyrus Pride of lions a few evenings ago, I noticed that one of the lions was staring intently in one direction. I had a look with my binoculars and nearly fell out of the vehicle! To my utter amazement, there was a pangolin moving through the grass! First one I’ve ever seen, and that in daylight!

I drove closer to about 15m away, and the pangolin proceeded to walk straight towards the vehicle until he was behind the front wheel. He was very relaxed so I got out of the vehicle to take more pictures. The pangolin suddenly realised that he had company, and perhaps feeling threatened rolled into a ball and really displayed his spiny scales. I quickly retreated, and then he snuck off into the longer grass again. Absolutely awesome experience and one of my best since being here!

Pangolins are found in Asia and Africa, but there is only one species to be found in south-central Africa – the Temminck’s or ground pangolin. It is covered with hard scales of the nail protein keratin, feeds on termites, and is secretive, nocturnal, small and endangered.

Sightings are therefore rare and when they do occur, there is much excitement – the Busanga Plains seems to be producing infrequent sightings of these special mammals and a better chance than most in seeing them.

Photo Courtesy of AAC Livingstone Club Member, Gail Laviola