December 2020 will go down as a major landmark in Phinda’s Pangolin Reintroduction Project. It marks the birth of the first wild pangolin pup born in this Kwa-Zulu Natal region in decades - the ultimate reward for the dedicated teams behind this pioneering initiative.
Did you know?
- Pangolins hold the secrets of 85 million years of evolution
- They are the world’s only scaled mammal
- They are most closely related to the dog family, so their offspring are called pups
- For 1 ton of pangolin scales, an estimated 1 900 pangolins are killed
- By mid-2019, 8 tons of African pangolin scales had been intercepted – the equivalent of about 100 000 African pangolins
- There is 1 African pangolin taken from the wild every 5 minutes
- Pangolins are unfamiliar to the majority of the world’s population
The plight of the pangolin
Little-known and elusive – what is it about these nocturnal and secretive animals that has resulted in their precarious position as the planet’s most trafficked mammals?
If we look to Asia, in particular China and Vietnam, there is an insatiable calling for their scales that are used in over 60 different traditional medicines, as well as pangolin meat being a rare delicacy. With the near obliteration of all four of Asia’s pangolin species to meet this demand, it is now our four African species that are being targeted.
In Africa, over and above the hundreds and thousands of pangolins that are poached by highly sophisticated Asian syndicates, there are the additional pressures of habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, cultural beliefs and traditional uses in African tribal dress and medicine.
Pangolins and COVID-19
Questions abound around the origin and source of COVID-19, together with a robust debate regarding a total ban on global “wet markets”.
Professor Ray Jansen, Founder and Chairman of the African Pangolin Working Group, addressed both issues in an open letter to the Director General of the World Health Organisation, and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program.
About the Pangolin Reintroduction Project
June 2019 saw the launch of this groundbreaking, collaborative project to reintroduce the Temminck’s ground pangolin to a region where it has been locally extinct (i.e. no longer a viable breeding population) for decades – in essence, bringing this species back home.
The project’s aim is to gather a body of research data on this least studied group of mammals, and through the long-term monitoring of each animal following their release, to table the learnings and best-practice protocols for reintroduction projects to follow.
A second chance
Every pangolin in this programme has been retrieved from illegal wildlife poachers and traders in undercover operations involving the African Pangolin Working Group and the Stock and Theft Unit of the South African Police Service.
The extreme stresses of this experience necessitate a period of stabilisation and rehabilitation by the African Pangolin Working Group’s specialist veterinary team before their translocation to &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve.
Research and monitoring
A core element of this project is the long-term,intensive monitoring by the eight-man &Beyond Phinda Conservation Team during the initial pre-release period (anything from 3 – 18 days), and for a year or more post release.
The animals are fitted with VHF and UHF/GPS Satellite tracking devices which provide a wealth of fine scale data on little-known aspects of their behaviour, movements and the size of their territory and home range.
One of the biggest threats to the pangolins in the first six months following their release is suppressed diseases resulting from the stress and exposure of their time with poachers or traders.
A key indicator of a major health issue is a significant drop in their weight, so they are weighed regularly. Initially, this would be every second day, extending to every week, every fortnight and then only with their tag chances which would be every 2 – 3 months.
The return of the pangolin
How can you support this project?
Make your contribution count
The specialised VHF and Satellite tracking tags which require periodic replacement, are crucial to the success of this project. Whether you opt to support a tag, a tracking component or a whole unit, you’ll be making a fundamental difference.
Book your pangolin virtual experience
Join Charli de Vos, &Beyond Phinda Ecological Monitor, who’s been with the project from the start; an exclusive opportunity for an engaging and interactive presentation around ‘Pangolin – saving the species’. 100% of the profits will support this project.
Book your pangolin conservation experience
When you are next at Phinda, don’t miss the chance of our specialist-guided pangolin experience for a rare window on the hidden world of these elusive mammals. All funds raised from this signature experience will support this project.
World Pangolin Day
20 February 2021 marks World Pangolin Day. In celebration of these remarkable animals, and to drive much-needed awareness, we’re hosting not one, but two live panel discussions with experts in this field . These will include time for questions, so diarise the dates now and share this opportunity with friends and family.