A pangolin is one of the most prized sightings on an African safari. It was at the top of my list as I headed to the Linyanti Concession in Botswana (the caracal and the aardvark remain at large).
Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are very rare and might only be spotted every few years by a tracker and guide who are in the bush every day (incidentally, it is not an anteater at all, but does kind of look like one covered in armour).
Rarer still than a pangolin, is a pangolin being stalked by a leopard.
Our guide told us that it had been twenty years since he had witnessed such a thing. In this case, the stalker was a one year old cub. The cub didn’t quite know what to do with the strange animal. She was probably seeing one for the first time herself.
As for pangolins, they defend themselves by rolling up into a tight ball. Predators can’t really do anything thanks to the hard exterior scales.
We watched for several hours as the leopard would stalk the pangolin, paw at it cautiously as it rolled into a ball, then sit down beside it and rest.
As soon as the pangolin thought the leopard was asleep, it would unroll itself and try to get away. That’s when the leopard would start stalking again. The leopard did try to bite the pangolin a few times and she quickly made contorted faces as if it didn’t taste very good, or it hurt her teeth. She also licked the tail a few times while the pangolin was trying to make its getaway.
It was as if the pangolin was a toy that the leopard wasn’t about to give up. We stayed until it was quite dark before leaving the two animals to do their thing.