A once-in-a-lifetime daytime pangolin sighting

As a ranger, there are only a few animals that I have not yet seen. Unsurprisingly, they’re all quite rare or extremely shy, but during an early morning safari on Kapama Private Game Reserve, some Italian guests and I were fortunate enough to spot a ground pangolin, also known as a scaly anteater!

The morning started of with a hot cup of coffee in the African bush, before we set off to find the Guernsey Pride lion cubs. Just 5 minutes into our drive, I noticed an animal armoured with heavy yellow-brown scales walking slowly on its hind legs with its tail, forelegs and head just off the ground. My heart did a little dance before leaping into my throat and I had to rub my eyes to make sure they weren’t deceiving me. This near-mythical creature had eluded me for years, but there it was, right in front of me. My guests sensed my excitement, and as I explained just how special a sighting it was their own excitement grew and cameras started clicking.

River Lodge ranger with pangolin sighting

River Lodge ranger with pangolin sighting

This nocturnal animal is seldom preyed upon. When threatened, it simply rolls itself into a ball, exposing only its tough outer scales. The pangolin lives in underground holes dug by itself or other rare animals, such as aardvark. It has a strong sense of smell and claws on its forefeet to open underground food sources. The pangolin has no teeth, but licks up ants and termites with its long sticky tongue. The biggest threat to this remarkable animal is illegal poaching for their meat and scales.

Rassie Jacobs, River Lodge ranger, was also lucky enough to spot a pangolin during a recent safari bush walk: “Johan Taljard, River Lodge ranger, called a pangolin sighting in on the radio. I could not believe my ears and asked Johan to please repeat himself. When he did, I was overwhelmed with excitement – the particular sighting was just a few metres away from us! We walked quietly towards it and fortunately, it was quite relaxed and I was able to photograph it.”

During another bush walk Doctor Mbisi, Southern Camp ranger, also got up close and personal with a pangolin.

Even as a guide, living and working in the bush full time, you’re lucky to get a glimpse of the pangolin after dark. Here at Kapama Private Game Reserve, we have been most fortunate to spot this scarce and special creature in daylight, with enough time to really appreciate its rarity and uniqueness.


Written by: Alister Kemp

Kapama Southern Camp