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Capture of the Ipi

Capture of the Ipi.jpg Prisoner in NchogoThumbnailsOtaitai, or Porter's BasketPrisoner in NchogoThumbnailsOtaitai, or Porter's BasketPrisoner in NchogoThumbnailsOtaitai, or Porter's BasketPrisoner in NchogoThumbnailsOtaitai, or Porter's BasketPrisoner in NchogoThumbnailsOtaitai, or Porter's Basket
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Toward noon Mayombo gave a cluck, and pointed out to me a dead tree lying on the ground, and a strange-looking track leading up to it, and whispered into my ears the word "Ipi!"
That dead tree had been lying there, I suppose, for hundreds of years; nothing remained of it but the trunk, which was hollow throughout, and looked like a tube fifty or sixty feet long.
I examined the ground carefully at one end of the trunk, and saw no footprint there, so the animal had not gone out; at the other end the tracks were fresh, and it was evident that the animal had hidden inside the night before. I said to Mayombo," Perhaps the ipi has gone away." "Oh no," said he ; "don't you see there is only one track! Besides, it could not turn on itself, and, in order to get out, it has to go straight on to the other end." Immediately he took the axe and cut down some branches of a tree, of which he made a trap to catch the animal if it should come out. The branch was put firmly in the ground, and the top was bent over with a creeper attached to it, at the end of which was a ring, through which the animal would have to pass before he could get out; a little forked stick held the ring, which the animal would shake as it passed through; the limb would fly up instantly, and high in the air would the ipi dangle. When all this had been done, Mayombo, who had collected wood at the other end, set fire to it, to smoke the animal out. He was not mistaken ; the ipi was inside, and it made for the opposite extremity and was caught. There was a short struggle, but we ran up and ended it by knocking the ipi with all our might on the head. I saw at once that the ipi belonged to the pangolin genus (Manis of the zoologists), which is a very singular kind of animaL They are ant-eaters, like the Myrmeco-phaga of South America; but, while the South American anteater is covered with hair like other mammalia, the pangolins have an armor of large scales implanted in the skin of the upper surface of the body, from the head to the tip of the tail, each scale overlapping the other like the slates on the roof of a house.
Like the ant-eater of South America, the pangolins have no teeth, but they have a long extensile tongue, the extremity of which is covered with a glutinous secretion so sticky that their prey, after having been touched, adheres to the tongue and can not get away. The tongue of an ipi may be extended out several inches. The ipi feeds on ants.

During the day the ipi bides itself in its burrow in the earth, or sometimes in the large hollows of colossal trunks of trees which have fallen to the ground, like the tree just described to you ; but they generally prefer to burrow in the soil, and these burrows are usually found in light soil on the slope of a hill. By the singular structure of the ipi, it can nut turn to the right or to the left at once ; in fact, it is quite incapable of bending its body sideways, so it can not "right about face" in its burrow. Accordingly, there are two holes in each bur-row, one for entrance and one for exit.

The Country of the Dwarfs
By Paul Belloni Du Chaillu
Published in 1872
Available from books.google.com