In a guides career there are a few animals that most likely will never be seen. They are almost seen as mythical creatures as so many guides speak of the animals but hardly any of them have actually seen them.
On this particular morning the guides of Sabi Sabi were privileged enough to take the first glimpse (for most of us) at the mythical Pangolin, otherwise known as the scaly anteater.
The Pangolin is a rare nocturnal animal that spends its days under ground, in holes that are dug by itself or other rare animals such as aardvark. The Pangolin feeds of certain species of ants as well as termites. And the interesting thing about them is that they do not possess any teeth. But have a very well developed muscular stomach, which is used to grind ants and termites, as well as the gravel that is ingested in the feeding process aiding in the break down of the prey species.
When the animal comes under stress it curls up into a tight ball, with its head and feet firmly tucked away with the hard scales protecting the animal from injury.
The morning started off quietly with the goal of searching for the Lisbon female’s cubs. My guests at the time were a group of South Africans that had been to the bush numerous times all over Southern Africa, as well as being regulars at Sabi Sabi for the past 21 years with their first visit in 1992. Therefore they had seen almost everything before except the Pangolin!
With the call coming in over the radio from Jonas, a Bush Lodge ranger, that he had found a Pangolin. At first I did not register and it took a few minutes before it sunk in. I then asked Jonas for confirmation that he had seen the elusive creature; just to make sure it was not just me imagining things. With Jonas confirming that he had found the animal I headed in that direction. With sweaty palms and my heart in my throat we made our way towards the area, praying that it would not disappear before we got there.
Arriving at the sighting I could not contain my excitement and finally told my guests what we had just seen. (After struggling to keep it a secret). We all sat in awe of the creature as it moved through the grass. To me the animal was a lot bigger then I expected with its ancient looking scales having so much definition.
According to the experienced Shangaan trackers, they say that this was an older individual. This could bee seen by the wear and tear on the scales as well as the size of the animal. After spending some time with the Pangolin we made our way out to allow other guests the opportunity of viewing this amazing animal.
We made our way back to the lodge with huge smiles on our faces and extremely content after years of traveling Africa and finally succeeding.