Leopard stalks pangolin

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sean Crane

My focus is obviously wildlife and nature. This is what I love to do. What affords me the opportunity to do it, is my day job at an advertising agency in New York where I work as a creative director and writer. I’ve also lived in Boston, Denver, Detroit, and the back of a Subaru Outback. My photography and writing has appeared in magazines like Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, Natural History Magazine, Shutterbug and Spa, and has even made its way to Broadway, serving as a backdrop to the hit play Impressionism, starring Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen. I’ve been awarded by Nature’s Best in their Windland Smith Rice International competition, Communication Arts, Luerzer’s Archive, the North American Nature Photographer’s Association, and the National Wildlife Federation. Feel free to have a look at more of my photos on my website.

  • christine

    stunning pictures, absolutely fascinating

  • Patrick Kearsey

    Great pictures and amazing luck to see a Pangolin and a Leopard together like you said. I spotted one on a game drive in Singita quite opportunistically. If you ever in South Africa, try the Pilansberg game reserve for sightings of Characal, I have seen them there many a time.

  • Ursula Gunti

    Wow! Great shots! I hope the leopard didn’t do any harm to this wonderful creature. I had the enorm chance to see one in Botswana in the wild. Not even our guide sho wasn’t young anymore had spotted one before.

  • http://www.travelwrite.co.za Caroline Hurry

    Wonderful images. What a delight. Thank you for a very pleasant three-minute distraction from my work.

  • Vicky Jessop-Rose

    Fantastic photos…. Lucky as well…..

  • Ansie Badenhorst Kruger

    WOW how lucky can one person be. Stunning.

  • Liz Telfer

    amazing ,have never seen a pangolin ,despite years of searching,,,only seen leopards a dozen or so times,,,

  • Alison

    Absolutely incredible. What a lucky sighting. And thanks for sharing. Probably the two animals I’d like to see most. To see them together is just amazing.

  • http://rybicki.wordpress.com/ Ed Rybicki

    Brilliant! Thanks for sharing this. I saw a lion cub doing the same thing with a tortoise at a waterhole in Addo once: same kittenish thing of “bat, bat, watch”. Tortoise kept doggedly trying to sneak off. Made it, eventually!

  • Steppes Travel

    These photos are fantastic! What a great sight, you’re very lucky to have spotted the pangolin, let alone the pair together!

  • Chitrabhanu Thekkedath

    A wonderful study. Usually tigers leave such animals alone. This is an exception.

  • Martina Greff

    Amazing pictures! They remind me at my own luck to see a pangolin alive in Kwara district, Okavango. We were watching it for three hours and will never forget this very special moment. The guide was totally excited, it was also his first pangolin and he said, to see one will bring luck to you. With kisses on his back the pangolin could continue his way into the bush. Unfortunately Munich/Germany is so far away, I would be on safari every weekend, but I will come back, for sure!

  • Legroscollard

    Thanks for sharing this story. I love going on safaris and seeing animals behave. You were very lucky!

  • blue2iris3

    Incredible photos! Thanks for sharing. Hope the Pango escaped unharmed.

  • Midio Mecchi

    Great pics thank you so much!!

  • Beaty Limo


  • petert12

    I just hope the little Pangolin survived this encounter

  • Jenetta

    Thanks for sharing such rare photos.

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