Safaris & stories
Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel
Africa Geographic Travel

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.

pangolin_leopard6 pangolin_3x

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.

pangolin_leopard12 pangolin_leopard5

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.

pangolin_2 pangolin_leopard11

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.

pangolin_leopard9 pangolin_leopard8 pangolin_leopard2 pangolin_leopard1

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.

Travel with us

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.