Alastair: “I have a new pet for you.”
Me: “Really? Where?”
Alastair: “It’s in the office.”
Me: “OoOOoooo! What is it? A pony?”
Me: “What is it??? Tell me, tell me.”
Alastair: “A pangolin.”
Me (not hearing completely): “A penguin?”
Alastair: “No, a PANG-O-LIN.”
Me (never hearing of one before): “Is that a type of penguin?”
Alastair walks away shaking his head.
OK, I’d love to know if there are actually people out there (not from Africa) that know what a pangolin is because I certainly didn’t. I didn’t even understand what it was when I looked at it. I’m not sure what I expected when I peered into the cardboard box but this thing had the appearance of a pinecone more than an animal.
So, pangolins are scaly anteaters that roll up into a curl when they’re scared or sleeping.
With all of the large keratin scales covering its body I assumed it to be some kind of reptile, but the pangolin is a mammal and, even more interestingly, the only mammal with that adaptation.
I had been patiently waiting all day for my little friend to unfurl to no avail. Although he gave the impression of being a very hard and disagreeable animal when I first saw him in a ball, I now find him to be quite endearing and sweet, shyly hiding his little head and feet in a curlycue.
I even tried to unravel him with my hands but he is extremely strong and I didn’t want to use too much force.
Don’t be jealous of my super-cool sunhat :)
Alastair gave it his best shot as well but the pangolin face continued to illude us.
This little guy was not coming out. Eventually we left him in an enclosed area with some pieces of termite mound for food (we have plenty of those around). Pangolins eat ants and termites but lack teeth and just use their sharp claws and long sticky tongues.
After spending more time with our new pet I decided that his scales look less like a pinecone and more like the bracts of an artichoke, thus, I’ve named him Artie :)
Pangolins are killed and eaten as bush meat so when someone came by camp with it, Alastair was quick to buy him so that we could observe him for a bit before releasing him back into the bush.
Artie still spends most of the day rolled in a ball hiding from us. At one point yesterday Alastair came across him fully unfolded, standing up on his back legs. One whiff of Alastair and Artie jumped back into a ball, but Al told me about how cute he looked, so today I’ve been spying on Artie and managed to catch a glimpse of his face.
Hello there, Artie!