Friday, May 11, 2007

We Interrupt this Blog for A Cute Moment

The other day I was returning from Mother Patern College, after a long day of writing, planning for the upcoming BSW program and teaching, when I got a call from Renita. "It looks like we have another pet," she said. "Yeh," I asked, unimpressed, "what is it?" Renita said, "I don't know. It looks like an armadillo. Some neighbor boys brought it. You'll have to see it yourself." Neighbor boys are always bringing us birds or beasts to show us, sell to us, or get us to adopt.

I got home, and she pointed to a ball of gray-brown scales half-buried in the sand by the house. "Its some kind of anteater," offered Noah. Reading my mind as I tentatively reached for it, he added, "It has no teeth. It can't bite." I pulled it up out of the sand.

I had no idea what this thing was, but I certainly knew it was about the cutest thing I ever saw. And I'm not usually a big fan of cute. In fact, I almost never use the word, except when being satirical or sarcastic. But this lil' guy was in a category by himself.

After doing some research, this is what we know. It (actually we think he) is a pangolin, (manis tricuspis), not related to the armadillo or the anteater. There are apparently seven varieties of this creature in the world, and while not endangered in Africa, they are in other parts of the world where they are hunted for their scales-- supposed to have healing powers. There are several sites online that discuss the creature, so go to Google, type in pangolin, and read about her yourself.

The pangolin is fascinating -- and he seems to like humans. Being nocturnal, he is out at night, looking for bugs in the trees, but each morning he finds his way to our house, climbs our kitchen stairs and we find him curled in a ball at our kitchen door. We try carrying him back out, but he lumbers back, so take him in, wrap him in a blanket, and he sleeps. Later we take him out and sometimes he returns in his sloth-like way, and sometimes he stays out, but always he is at our door in the morning. We believe this one is an infant, because he is not eating ants and only takes milk.
There is no doubt we must return him to the bush. As sweet and cuddly as this thing is, pangolins have a very specialized diet and do not live long in captivity. Even zoos have a hard time keeping them alive. So even though we'd like to keep him, but once he starts eating bugs, we'll return him and hope he makes it. We just wanted you to see him.

Class, Mammalia; Order, Pholidota; Family, Manidae. Common names: Three cusped pangolin, tree pangolin, white bellied pangolin. Locally called scaly anteater or ant bear.