|Dear ATCNews Readers,
Pangolins are becoming recognised for being the most trafficked mammal on the planet. But I am writing to you today to let you know that there is still hope for this incredible species.
These toothless, scaly anteaters are named after the Malay word pengguling which means “one who rolls up”. But this defense mechanism is no match against the voracious illegal wildlife trade.
While these solitary and mostly nocturnal creatures are little known, all eight species of pangolins are threatened with extinction. Approximately 100,000 pangolins are being taken annually from the wild across Africa and Asia, where their meat and scales – the latter believed to have medicinal value – are sold and consumed. Even more shocking is this is thought to represent only a fraction of the real trade.
And we at African Parks are seeing this devastation firsthand.
Just a few months ago, in late July a joint operation among our Investigations Unit from Garamba National Park, Juristrale (a DRC based organization) and local authorities seized 330 kilograms of scales representing 100 giant pangolins in Kinshasa. Two suspects were arrested, and the court case is ongoing in Kinshasa, but this is sadly the largest seizure of scales that the Garamba team has been involved in.
While these confiscations are critical in stemming the trade, we want to prevent these animals from being reduced to just their weight in scales.
Pangolins are found in nine out of the 16 parks we manage, and we often find ourselves confiscating live animals that need care before being returned to the wild. Just this week in Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia we saw a successful joint operation among our park staff, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and WCP – Wildlife Crime Prevention. A Temminck’s ground pangolin was located and confiscated from traffickers who were planning to sell the animal, but under the careful protection of our scouts it was safely released back into the park.
This is why we have just entered into a partnership with the Tikki Hywood Foundation, a global authority on these secretive animals. Besides creating safe places for these animals in the parks we manage, together we will be embarking on training in best practices for pangolin rehabilitation, and providing resources to scale capacity for the protection and wellbeing of rescued and orphaned pangolins across the continent.
And it’s not all bad news. A few weeks back, community members came to our team in Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi with two live pangolins and a hedgehog, a result of us providing incentives for people to report on illegal wildlife activity. They handed the animals over with the message being they wanted them back where they belonged, within the safe haven the park provides.
Our ability to protect these species and many others is thanks to you, our supporters. Through the generosity of people like you, we are able to continue our critical work to create safe places for people and wildlife across Africa.