The Pangolin is an exceptionally rare animal to view on a safari, and when spotted it could potentially be a life changing experience. At Londolozi, we were lucky enough to track and find an individual a couple of days ago. Trevor McCall-Peat (one of the rangers) and myself, actually shed some tears! This was the first time I had ever seen a Pangolin. It was worth the wait! It gave us an ample opportunity to enjoy this magnificent creature. Here are a few facts about this very interesting animal.
1 The name Pangolin comes from the Malay word, Penguguling, which means, “to roll up” and describes the Pangolin’s habit of rolling itself into a ball when threatened.
2 Pangolins are so rare due to their rather selective feeding habits. Pangolin’s feed on termites and ants and of all the hundreds of species of ants and termites found in South Africa, they feed on only 19 Species. Formicid ants seem to be their food of preference. These ants and termites tend to favour more arid areas of the country and therefore it is very special to encounter a pangolin at Londolozi.
3 The Pangolin is the most trafficked animal in the world. Their scales are believed to have medicinal properties and the flesh is consumed as a delicacy. The existence of this strange animal is not common knowledge and because of their awkward looks; they rarely make it on the cover of nature magazines. If everyone can stand together and spread the word about this amazing animal, the possibilities are endless! Every person in the world has the capacity to make a change in an animal’s life.
The Honey Badger
The Honey Badger is part of the weasel family. It gets its common name from what is one of its favourite food sources; honey. Contrary to popular belief though, the Honey Badger actually feeds on the bee larvae inside the honey and not the actual honey. The Honey Badger is known for its short temper and ferocious habits. A very common South African expression; as tough as a Honey Badger as derived from its ferocity!
1 When Cheetah cubs are born, they resemble a Honey Badger. Cheetah cubs have very little in the form of defense against any predators. The school of thought is that the resemblance to the Honey Badger will cause an animal to think twice before threatening the young cub.
2 According to the Guinness World book of Records, the Honey Badger is the most fearless animal in the world!
Honey Badgers have quite a few reasons to be fearless. They have exceptionally thick skin, about 3 cm thick in places! The skin is also very loose, which protects it from bites of other predators as well as direct blows from arrows or even knives!
Some Honey Badgers are so tough that not even a snakebite will kill them. They seem to have a natural immunity that protects them from the venom.
3 The South African Army produces an infantry fighting vehicle called the “Ratel” .
“Ratel” is the Afrikaans word for Honey Badger. It is thought to be one of the toughest military vehicles in the world, hence the name!
Civets are amazing animals and an absolute pleasure to see on a safari. They are mainly nocturnal and quite secretive, but if one gets the opportunity, spend some time with one and enjoy their fascinating habits. They might be quite small but they are a handful for any predator. Their sebaceous glands furnish a highly odoriferous secretion to protect them from any predator, large or small, as this article will soon enlighten you.
1 Glandular secretion produced by male and female Civets (known as civet musk) is collected and used as perfume. The secretion contains a distinctive odour known as civitone. Civitone is used in various perfumes worldwide and is environmentally friendly.
2 “Kopi Luwak”, a word or name few of us have heard of, is actually a coffee made from coffee beans hand picked out of the faeces of civets. It is regarded as the most expensive coffee in the world, reaching a price tag of around $600 per pound! The process of producing the coffee is quite intriguing, a short summary follows: A Civet (mainly the Palm Civet, also the African Civet) feeds on coffee berries to access the nutrient rich source of energy. After spending about a day and a half in the civet’s digestive tract the beans are then defecated in clumps, having kept their shape and still covered with some of the fleshy berry’s inner layers. The beans are collected, washed, roasted and then brewed for an apparently delicious cup of coffee! According to the coffee connoisseurs, it has a delightful caramel taste! I don’t know about you, but this author will definitely give a try.
3 Civets may appear docile and quite skittish at the best of times but I have experienced a Civet attacking and forcing one of the toughest animals in the bush to back down and run away! The infamous Honey Badger!
The Honey Badger crossed paths with the Civet whilst the former was feeding. The Honey Badger tried to intimidate the Civet by hissing fiercely, this display however, was completely ignored by the ignorant Civet. The Honey Badger charged and attacked the Civet!! The next moment all hell broke loose… The Civet hit back hard! The Civet secreted its obnoxiously smelly musk, which with a couple of well placed blows and bites forced the Honey Badger to run away-dragging its tail between its legs!
Londolozi Game Reserve offers our guests the opportunity to view all three of these astonishing animals in their natural habitat. All of the above mentioned animals are quite small in stature, but their ability to protect themselves are second to none! If you are lucky enough to witness one of these animals on your next safari, photograph them and just enjoy the time spent with them – it would be a life changing experience.
Written by: Werner Breedt