Sabi Sands Photographic Safari

The birth of a pangolin

© Scott Hurd

© Scott Hurd

This is Roxy, the most amazing mama pangolin in the whole world.

She was wild caught and taken around a local town in a box, to be sold on the black market. A shop owner felt sorry for her and bought her. He then called a local wildlife organization which in turn called the Rare & Endangered Species Trust (REST).

This rescued Cape Pangolin took a liking for Maria Diekmann (founder and director of REST) and the unexpected and inexplicable bond was such that Maria was allowed to join this most whacky and enigmatic creature in her ‘wandels’ and nocturnal foraging.

© Scott Hurd

© Scott Hurd

© Rare & Endangered Species Trust

© Dave Lowth

However as the REST team prepared Roxy for her release, Maria went in for a final check and Roxy crawled slowly towards her and sat in her lap. Maria saw what appeared to be a snake coiled up around her stomach however she quickly realised that Roxy had given birth and the baby was still attached by its umbilical cord. Maria slowly got her back into the corner she had been using as a den, and watched how she broke the cord and curled around the baby. She had just witnessed the first captive birth of a Cape Pangolin in history.

© Maria Diekman

© Dave Lowth

For the following two months Roxy raised her baby Pangolin in the most surprisingly unperturbed and relaxed manner, allowing Maria and other volunteers or visitors to take the odd peak and photo of her little miracle.

© Maria Diekman

© Maria Diekmann

© Maria Diekman

© Maria Diekmann

Then, unexpectedly, one night, Roxy vanished, her spoor untraceable, leaving behind her nameless baby to be reared by the REST team. The team believes that she may have come into heat and the call of the wild may have overcome her maternal instincts. It is thought that wild pangolins normally leave their young at about this time, so they believe what she did was natural.

© Christian Boix

© Christian Boix

© Rare & Endangered Species Trust

© Maria Diekmann

© Christian Boix

© Christian Boix

© Christian Boix

© Christian Boix

© Christian Boix

© Christian Boix

REST will keep caring for their new baby but they desperately need to find funding. This year they have already been contacted a number of times to collect and subsequently release five Cape Pangolins back into the wild. Never under any circumstance are Cape Pangolins purchased from their captors, to avoid stimulating trade, instead long and expensive cell phone negotiations ensue until a hand-over is agreed. All in all each and every rescued Cape Pangolin sets REST back a handsome N$10,000 on its already tight budget. But the reality is….if they don’t do it….who will. Find out more about sponsoring a pangolin.



Christian Boix

I left my native Spain, its great food, siestas and fiestas to become an ornithologist at the University of Cape Town and to start Tropical Birding, a company specialising in bird-watching tours worldwide. The past 11 years have seen me travel to over 60 countries in search of 5,000 plus bird species. Time passed, my daughter became convinced that I was some kind of pilot and my wife acquired a budgie for company – that’s when the penny dropped. Thrilled to join the Africa Geographic team, hardly contained in an office, I look forward to reporting on new and exciting travels, and continue to share the joy of birding and exploration.

Africa Geographic