In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE - Nicky Fur­niss

Most peo­ple have a bucket list – things they want to do be­fore they die. I have one of those, as well as a bucket list of an­i­mals I want to see. This is di­vided (in my head) into aquatic an­i­mals and land ones. In­cluded on the aquatic list are man­a­tees, manta rays, nar­whals, man­tis shrimp, ev­ery sin­gle type of nudi­branch ever doc­u­mented, and – ever since I watched David At­ten­bor­ough’s in­cred­i­ble Blue Planet II – a leafy sea dragon.

The “land list” is a lit­tle shorter – we are very blessed to live in the an­i­mal Mecca of Africa af­ter, all – and in­cludes a River­ine rab­bit, a striped pole­cat, an aye-aye, a tapir, a moose and a sloth. For a long time, the two an­i­mals at the very top of that list were an aard­vark and a pan­golin, and I would make game rangers sigh in ex­as­per­a­tion when I asked them to kindly find me one of each – along with ev­ery­one else’s re­quests for gi­raffe and lions.

And then, last year – af­ter all those years of ask­ing and wait­ing – I man­aged to tick both off the list.

Sa­mara Game Re­serve in the Eastern Cape is well known for its chee­tah con­ser­va­tion pro­gramme, but also in­creas­ingly for its aard­vark sight­ings. Un­for­tu­nately, I ar­rived at the wrong time of year to see th­ese com­i­cal long-snouted crea­tures, but nev­er­the­less, one of the game rangers in­dulged me and took me out on a solo late-night game drive. Af­ter 45 min­utes of noth­ing we were about to throw in the towel . . . when the spot­light picked up some­thing in the bushes.There he was, the aard­vark of my dreams! Well, his bum at least. He re­fused to smile for the cam­era, but I can now say that I have of­fi­cially been mooned by an aard­vark! (In­ci­den­tally, the bucket list has now been up­dated to: “face of an aard­vark”.)

Pan­golins are kind of the uni­corn of the African bush. Noc­tur­nal, crit­i­cally en­dan­gered due to con­tin­u­ous poach­ing for their scales, and no­to­ri­ously shy, you have about as much chance of see­ing an un-tagged one in the wild as you do of win­ning the Lotto.Which is why I hon­estly thought our game ranger was jok­ing when he put his foot on the ac­cel­er­a­tor to race to the sight­ing. But there he was – scales, wig­gly snout, pink tongue and all – hav­ing a lit­tle rest un­der a bush. Later that evening, when we re­turned to Pa­furi Camp in the Makuleke Con­ces­sion of the North­ern Kruger Na­tional Park, even game rangers who had worked for decades were jeal­ous of our sight­ing, so sel­dom – if ever – had they seen one them­selves.

I count my­self in­cred­i­bly lucky to have seen th­ese two amaz­ing an­i­mals, and hope­ful that my luck will con­tinue this year. It makes you re­alise just what an amaz­ingly rich con­ti­nent we live on, and re­minds you to re­ally make the ef­fort to get out there and ex­pe­ri­ence it – while we can. Crit­i­cally en­dan­gered an­i­mals, like pan­golins, are al­ways go­ing to be hard to find. But by sup­port­ing the con­ser­va­tion of pro­tected ar­eas and do­ing our part to de­nounce poach­ing, we can en­sure that one day, in the not too dis­tance fu­ture, an­i­mals like ze­bras – or gi­raffe or im­pala – will not be on some­one else’s list of vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble-to-find an­i­mals.

Safe Trav­els

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