Friday, July 11, 2008


Last week was one of those unforgettable days in the bush when out on the afternoon safari everything just falls into place…

Firstly the Diperoro leopardess which has been making her grace felt more and more regularly, popped out into the road in front of us, to be greeted by my guests with massive excitement and awe as this majestic cat strutted her stuff in true cat fashion before disappearing into the thick undergrowth.


After the euphoria of sighting one of the most elusive creatures in the Madikwe Reserve, we continued the safari with countless sightings of general game, and a plethora of bird species entertaining us with a splash of color every now and then.

Not long after the leopard sighting, we bumped into the Tshaba Lioness on her own looking intent on finding something to hunt, with a serious glint in her eye which had that “I mean business” look. There were some wildebeest in the area which she pursued and then also vanished into the thickets, only to return a half hour later with all her youngsters greeting her with hopes that she had caught something, but alas, it was not to be…

Then elephants at Tlou dam, quenching the days thirst  with white rhino as the backdrop, all happening as the sun was setting, but wait that wasn’t all…

As we were about halfway through our drinks break, Ryno (one of the other Guides) was approaching us when he suddenly shouted from about 80 meters away “PANGOLIN!!”, and I said, “WHAT !?”…


Needless to say I shouted to the guests to get in the vehicle, and the cooler box with snacks and all was in the vehicle in about 3 and ½ seconds flat. The following Images were unfortunately not the best quality, but to see something like this is only the third time in 9 years of my guiding career, so I will leave you with some info on these secretive creatures…..


Scientific Classification

Kingdom:  Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class:  Mammalia

Order:  Pholidota

Family: Manidae

Genus: Manis

Species: M. temminkii

The Ground Pangolin (Manis temminckii), also known as Temminck's Pangolin or the Cape Pangolin, is one of four species of
pangolin which can be found in Africa and the only one in southern and eastern Africa. Although it is present over quite a large area, it is rare throughout it and notoriously difficult to spot. Its scarcity is partly because it is hunted by humans for its scales, which are used in love charms, and partly because it is often burnt in bush fires. The IUCN only lists it as "near threatened" on its Red list.

With the exception of the underside, it is covered in extremely hard scales. When threatened, it usually will roll up into a ball to protect the vulnerable belly. The scales on the tail can also be used as blades to slash at attackers.

The Ground Pangolin can grow to a length of about 1 meter, with the tail typically between 30 and 50 cm. It has a disproportionately small head, powerful hind legs, and small forelegs.

Like other pangolin species, it is largely nocturnal, although it is also entirely terrestrial and usually found in savanna or open woodland, generally feeding on termites or ants. It is well adapted to this, with a very long (up to 50 cm) sticky tongue which is stored inside a pocket in the mouth until needed. Although it is capable of digging its own burrow, it prefers to occupy disused holes dug by a Warthog or an Aardvark or to lie in dense vegetation, making it even more difficult to observe.

This animal was named for the Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck.  Pangolins lack teeth and the ability to chew. Instead, they tear open anthills or termite mounds with their powerful front claws and probe deep into them with their very long tongues. Pangolins have an enormous salivary gland in their chests to lubricate the tongue with sticky, ant-catching saliva.

Cheers for now!

Gavin Tonkinson


Photo-Africa said...

And this of course all happens while I am sitting in the city!!

Great sighting!!

SAPhotographs said...

All I can say is "WOW!! WOW!! WOW!!"
What wonderful luck in sighting this. Congrats!! In my 20 years as a courier I only managed to see three.

Anonymous said...

Amazing sighting!! You were very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.

And the Diperoro leopardess....what a beauty. I also love the b/w image! Beautiful!

Peggy (Shiloh)

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Oh WOWOWOW!!! You saw a PANGOLIN!!! What a great sighting. Oh yeah... the leopard isn't bad either. lol ;-) I've been catching up a little today. Your previous posts are fantastic, too.

André Lemay said...

I got on your blog by luck; what a luck I just spend about an hour looking at it. It is great and I love the tips that you give. Since that I'm an amateur of wildlife photography I sure will be back soon for more of your great pictures.

Mike - Fenphotography said...

WOW what greatshots, just shows how much can be missed if you are a couple of seconds before or after these amazing creatures.

sue said...

Amazing animal.
is there any creatue man won't leave alone. Nope Not!!