Video: Lion attacks pangolin in the Masai Mara

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 18 January 2019

A South African safari guide witnessed a lion attacking a Temminck’s ground pangolin on a night game drive in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

According to the guide, Tristan Dicks, what you see in the video is ‘a once-in-a-lifetime sighting’.

In the video, which has Dicks explaining the encounter to the tourists on his game drive, two young male lions can be seen trying their luck with a defensive pangolin.

One of the lions loses interest, but while the guide is identifying the armoured mammal, the other lion looks straight at Dicks’ camera and then returns to trying to intercept the pangolin.

The lion paws at and fumbles with the creature, which is by now curled up into a tight ball, its hardy keratin scales protecting it and proving quite the task for the curious lion. It almost seems as though the big cat is playing with the creature, rolling it around like a ball and trying to get at it with its claws and mouth but unable to bite it properly.

The lion eventually tires or loses interest and walks off. The guide group hangs around as they’re rather eager to catch a glimpse of the now safe pangolin. Dicks later tries a weird little trick where he switches the car on, upon which the pangolin unfurls slightly and takes a peep at the crowd gathered in the dark. It pops its head back in and curls up again, not as tightly but still cautious of the humans and put off by the bright lights.

‘I can’t believe our luck,’ Dicks exclaims in the video.

Dicks has reportedly only seen these scaly creatures eight times in his life. Pangolins are increasingly hard to come by because their populations are so low; this is due to illegal wildlife crimes such as poaching and trafficking in Asia and Africa.

 

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The eight different pangolin species that exist are found across both continents, with half of them found in Africa. Pangolins are sought out for their meat and scales, which are believed by some to have special medicinal properties – the meat is also considered to be a delicacy in some countries.

Pangolins have a tough, scaly exterior, often referred to as ‘armour’. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a frightened pangolin will cover its head with its front legs, exposing its sharp scales to predators and protecting its vulnerable body.

‘When curled, there really is nowhere that the lions can get purchase with their teeth,’ Dicks tells National Geographic. ‘That, coupled with the rain that night, made the surface far too slippery for the lions to actually do any damage.’

The pangolin the lion is seen trying to get to in this rare footage was identified as a Temminck’s ground pangolin.

‘To see the most trafficked animal in the world is something that I can’t describe’ said Dicks. ‘That coupled with a pride of lions in the Mara is a once-in-a-lifetime sighting’.

It is unknown how often lions and pangolins interact with or encounter one another.

 

Featured image: Screenshot/ Safari Live/ Tristan Dicks






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