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Africa Geographic Travel
© Scott Hurd
Roxy the pangolin © 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 organisation which in turn called the Pangolins International (PI).

This rescued Cape pangolin took a liking for Maria Diekmann (founder and director of PI). The unexpected bond was such that Maria was allowed to join this most whacky and enigmatic creature in her wanders and nocturnal foraging.

© Scott Hurd
© Scott Hurd

However, as the PI 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 its umbilical cord was still attached to the baby.

© Rare & Endangered Species Trust
© Dave Lowth

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 calm 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

Then, unexpectedly, one night, Roxy vanished, her spoor untraceable, leaving behind her nameless baby to be reared by the PI team.

pangolin
© Maria Diekmann

The team believes that she may have come into heat, and the call of the wild may have overcome her maternal instincts.

pangolin
© Christian Boix

It is thought that wild pangolins usually leave their young at about this time, so they believe what she did was natural.

© Rare & Endangered Species Trust
© Maria Diekmann

PI will keep caring for their new baby, but they desperately need to find funding. This year they have already been contacted several times to collect and release five Cape pangolins back into the wild.

pangolin
© Christian Boix

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 handover is agreed.

pangolin
© Christian Boix

Every rescued Cape pangolin sets PI back a handsome N$10,000 on its tight budget. But the reality is if they don’t do it, who will? Find out more here about sponsoring a pangolin.

pangolin
© Christian Boix

READ MORE about pangolins

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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. During that period of my life I travelled 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. I then joined the Africa Geographic team and run our safari business from England. Hardly contained in an office, I look forward to reporting on new and exciting travels, and continue to share the joy of safari, birding and exploration.

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