My first Pangolin encounter happened on the morning of the 2nd of November 2009 conducting a Metsi Metsi trail. We had a group consisting of two French, two German and two South African guests.
Myself and Phillip Gumede, my trusted trail colleague and assistant, started the first morning walking from our camp heading north towards the Lindanda area. We followed a well-used game path along a small grano fight ridge called Nwana nwhamrirwa.
Not far from the camp, we found two old buffalo bulls we call Dagga boys, as they are old and spend many hours lazing in the mud. “Dagga” being a Zulu word for mud. As we were watching the buffalo deciding how we could approach them, I heard something move in the grass just next to us. Phillip was worried it might be a honey badger and stood back. This is very understandable as honey badgers are probably the most ferocious animals in relation to their size. I decided to cautiously approach and see what it was.
As I walked towards it I saw a shiny brown body and immediately realised it was a Pangolin. Later the guests would describe to me the “Pangolin dance” I treated them to as I was so excited. I called Phillip and the guests over. Phillip was also very happy but I could see that the guests, both international and local, were surprised by our excitement as they did not realise what a special sighting this was. Obviously I took many photos, as I touched this creature. It was a very special and spiritual moment for me.
The Pangolin at first lay still, stretched out. We could all see its face and feel the hard smooth scales that so efficiently protects its body. After some time I had to pick him up and slowly move him onto his side and the pangolin curled up into a tight impenetrable ball. I was amazed at how well he could protect himself and secondly how heavy he was. I’m sure most of the weight is the scales but he must have weighed at least 20 kg.
After many photos and lots of kisses from mostly me, we left him in the grass and moved off. It was definitely a day I would never forget and a highlight of my time walking in Kruger.