Posts Tagged ‘pangolin’

Pangolin sighting

March 9th, 2010, posted in Wildlife

Living your life in the African wild means your chances of seeing unusual sightings is better than when taking a short safari!  More often than not these scarce sightings take place on an unscheduled game walk, or whenever you do not have a camera nearby.  It as though these unbelievable moments are kept sacred, it is more than ”  Murphy’s law” it’s as though the bush is sharing a secret with you!

You can imagine our excitement when one of the guests out on a game drive with Pieter saw something running through the grass. Pieter looked in the direction she was pointing and saw a Pangolin making its way through the long grass! They are solitary animals and mainly nocturnal, with occasional daytime activity making this sighting extra special! What is even better, is that this time cameras were available to capture this uncommon species.

The Ietermagô (Afrikaans for Pangolin) is distinguished by other mammals by its covering of overlapping horny plates. The eyes are small and the ears are just slits in the side of the head.  The legs are short and heavily built; the forefeet have a nail on the first toe, curved claws up to 5cm long on the second, third and fourth toeas and  a short claw on the fifth. All five toes on each hind foot have a small nail-like claw.  The tail is long and heavy.

The Pangolin eats ants and sometimes termites. They hide during the day in Aardvark or springhare burrows, holes or under piles of vegetation. It locates ants’ nests by smell, scratches them open with its claws and licks the ants with its long sticky tongue.

What makes it unusual:

  • The Pangolin walks on its hind legs; the front feet rarely touch the ground.
  • It has a well-developed anal gland produces a stinking secretion.
  • Pangolins have no teeth; they grind their food in a muscular gizzard.
  • When threatened a pangolin rolls up with its head protected by its tail.
  • Young ride crossways on the base of their mothers tail and when they are older, they ride lengthways on her back.

Why we are sharing this safari sighting with you:

Although Pangolin’s are widespread, they are uncommon. Pangolins are exceptionally sensitive to insecticides.  Their habit of rolling up when threatened leads to their getting tangled in, and killed by, electrified game fences. Pangolin scales are sought after for traditional medicine, and poaching is a major cause of death.

Red Data Book: Vulnerable, CITES: Appendix II.

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