Just under a year ago, I wrote an article on a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of Pangolins mating. It was a sighting that I certainly wasn’t expecting and don’t expect to ever see again…
In this previous blog, I touched on the fact that seeing pangolins in the wild is an incredibly rare experience mainly due to their reclusive, nocturnal habits and endangered status. I remember at this point last year having seen more pangolins than usual on the reserve during that period of time and it got me thinking, Was it just a coincidence? There were several different sightings of pangolins on the reserve over a short space of time.
From the 9th until the 15th of August this year, five different pangolins were seen on the reserve. Coincidence? I think not. With the grass and general vegetation being sparse at this time of year in late winter/early spring, the likelihood of seeing these scaly mammals increases significantly. This, along with the fact that their hours of activity are extended due to the cooler weather and slight uptick in termite activity (that form a large portion of their diet), means that the best viewing of pangolins in this region tends to be in the months of August and September.
The quality of these sightings was also worth noting. Due to their shy demeanour, pangolins will usually roll into a tight ball when feeling unnerved, and the fact that they have only encountered people and vehicles a handful of times results in them generally either curling up into this ball or walking into a dense shrub to avoid being seen. Here is a video of one of these pangolins walking out into the open, and even walking right next to a guest standing in the road!
View this post on Instagram
As jaw-dropping as this encounter was, a sighting of another individual had a certain significance to it. On the basis of size, this pangolin was certainly a sub-adult. I then did the maths and figured that after a gestation period of between 3.5 – 5 months, the pangopup resulting from the mating pair we saw in September last year would have been born around January 2023.
It then would have stayed with the mother for roughly another 4-5 months, taking us to May/June 2023 at which stage he/she would have dispersed from its parent’s territory. Due to the proximity of this young pangolin relative to where we saw the mating pair, I inferred that there was indeed an extremely high chance that it was the product of the spectacle we witnessed last year.
It’s refreshing to know that a species so threatened and sought after in illegal trades is successfully breeding at Londolozi and that their population seems to be stable.