The Pangolin is an elusive creature that has quickly become one of the world’s most trafficked mammals. They are hard to spot in the wild because of their nocturnal behavior, but we’ve rounded up five places for you to travel to increase your chances of spotting the pangolin.
Leo Tolstoy said, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” No words have rung truer for Gordie Owles, a third generation Kenyan and Marketing Director for Asilia Africa, our ground partner in Tanzania. He waited 30 years to catch a glimpse of the elusive pangolin and tells a story of forgoing cheetah kills, lion cubs, and other “wilderness greats” on the search for one of the trickiest animals to see.
His quest to find this “missing link” started in 1980 when he and his father spotted what they thought to be a pangolin over 650 feet away. Slowly they made their way over rough terrain to the sighting only to find out that what they thought was the mysterious animal was, in fact, just a pile of rocks shaped like a pangolin.
In recent years, the threat to the pangolin has risen and it is now the most trafficked wild mammal globally. Pangolins are used in traditional Chinese and African medicines, as they are said to cure physical and spiritual ailments. Growing demand for these seemingly mythical creatures has placed it on a list heading towards extinction, with trade levels exceeding even those of elephants and rhinoceros. Therefore, it is getting increasingly harder to spot these prehistoric looking creatures.
There are eight species of pangolins in the world. Four are found in Asia and four are found in Africa, but all of them are being threatened by the false belief that their scales can heal a variety of diseases. They walk on their hind legs and are the only group of mammals to be covered in scales rather than fur. They rely on their scales for protection — made of keratin — which are hard, sharp, and can deeply cut the flesh of a predator. When attacked, they roll up into a ball, presenting a barrier of armor to the attacker. Once they are in a ball, it is impossible to uncurl a pangolin and any attempt would result in severe injuries to the predator.
Last February, Gordie’s quest to see the pangolin finally ended when one was spotted on the edge of Namiri Plains Camp in Tanzania. He and Epimark, Namiri Plains Camp Manager (who has been looking for a pangolin for just as long as Gordie) dropped everything and headed to the sighting. For Gordie and Epimark, a quest spanning decades had finally come to fruition. And for a small number of Namiri Plains guests, it was a once-in-a-lifetime sighting few have had the privilege of enjoying. Patience is a virtue, and that’s certainly true in the African bush.
Are you ready to seek out the pangolin for yourself? Here are our top five places to increase your chances of seeing the majestic creature:
- Namiri Plains, Tanzania
- Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
- Samara Private Game Reserve, South Africa
- Shinde, Botswana
- Mateya Safari Lodge, South Africa
For more information about a safari in Africa in search of the pangolin, contact your Travel Professional or visit us on the web. To stay up to date on all of our online content, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.