While travelling, I received an email from Catherine Ritchie of Pangolin.Africa informing me about an essential new initiative to protect this precious and most trafficked wildlife species. Introducing a great tool which enables travellers to ‘do good for conservation’ while on safari, you are invited to record any pangolin sightings you may have by WhatsApping it to Pangolin.Africa. The information is then shared, securely, with conservationists across Africa to help them gather desperately-needed scientific data on pangolin population and distribution.
Conservationists estimate that one pangolin is poached from the wild every five minutes.
What is a Pangolin
The pangolin is probably the most unique, yet unknown animal in the world. There are four pangolin species in Africa each with their special features, habits and characteristics. Click below to learn more about these amazing creatures.
It’s difficult to protect a species when you don’t have much data on its numbers or whereabouts. You can help our research partners across Africa to gather more information by simply recording your Pangolin sighting on WhatsApp! Get the special number and put it in your phone right away.
Pangolins, also sometimes called scaly anteaters, are strange looking creatures covered with protective horny, overlapping scales. It is estimated that the African Pangolin has been around for over 40 million years, adapting itself to the changing environment in order to survive.
There are eight different pangolin species in the world, with four in Africa and four in Asia. The Pangolin is now the most trafficked mammal in the world. The demand for its scales and meat, mostly from the Asian market, means that if we don’t do something soon then the pangolin will go extinct in the very near future.
More about Pangolin.Africa
July marked the official launch of Pangolin.Africa, a new non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of the most highly poached animal on the continent: the African Pangolin.
Conservationists estimate that one pangolin is poached from the wild every five minutes due to the high demand from the African and Asian traditional medicine markets. The decimation of the Asian species has seen a dramatic spike in demand for the African Pangolin and a more collaborative and strategic approach is needed to ensure their survival.
In response to this crisis, Pangolin.Africa has adopted a three-pronged approach of Publicity, Participation and Protection to achieve its mission of saving all four species of African Pangolin. This will see the organisation working with partners in the tourism, conservation and corporate fields with the aim of:
1. Improving education and awareness of the African Pangolin and the critical need for conservation action; 2. Encouraging public participation through citizen science initiatives such as Pangolert – a WhatsApp line dedicated to securely recording sightings of Pangolins; 3. Supporting law enforcement in combating the trafficking of African Pangolins.
The new organisation will also drive strategic campaigns to raise funds for conservation partners across Africa who are working on research, protection and rehabilitation of African Pangolins.
Says Toby Jermyn, CEO of Pangolin Photo Safaris: “As the founding partner of Pangolin.Africa we are proud to be supporting this new initiative which will bring together and strengthen the efforts of a number of different individuals and organisations who are already addressing pangolin conservation. More scientific data is critical to the successful conservation of the species.”
Know your African Pangolins
– Giant Ground Pangolin(Smutsia gigantea)
As their name would suggest, the giant ground pangolin is the largest of the four species and is a terrestrial animal. Adults can grow to 1.5m in length and can weigh up to 35kg. They are predominantly found in Central and West Africa and occasionally recorded in East Africa. They are nocturnal and very dependent on water so they tend to inhabit lowland and riparian forests, and savannah grasslands
– Temminck’s Ground Pangolin(Smutsia temminckii)
Temminck’s Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) has a small head and a long, broad tail and is probably the most widespread of all the African pangolin species. They have been recorded in Southern Africa, through East Africa and as far north as South Sudan and Chad. This is the second largest species growing to around 1.2m long and 15kgs but this varies depending on the environment that individuals inhabit with smaller animals found in semi-arid areas.
– The Black-Bellied Pangolin(Phataginus tetradactyla)
In contrast to the Giant Ground Pangolin, the Black Bellied Pangolin is the smallest and lightest of the African Pangolins and some might say the most beautiful too. It weighs in at around 2kgs and has a long, slender tail that is longer than its body. The Black-Bellied Pangolin spends its life in the trees. It is also a diurnal (as opposed to nocturnal) species occupying the tropical rainforests of Central and West Africa. The scales of this species tend to be darker, ochre in colour and larger than the others with very dark borders.
– The White-Bellied Pangolin(Phataginus tricuspis)
The Black-Bellied Pangolin is similar to the white-bellied in size and the ratio of body to tail dimensions and is also arboreal. The scales are lighter in colour (being nearer to grey) and have three distinct points at the tip – thus the Tricuspis moniker in the species name. Endemic to Central and West Africa the White-bellied Pangolin is thought to be in greater numbers and is more readily encountered than the black-bellied. This might also be due to its propensity to forage on the forest floor as well as in the trees.
The Pangolin Struggle
Pangolins feed mostly on ants and termites, which are gathered up either from the ground or in the trees. Termite nests provide larger and more concentrated sources of food. Pangolins can also dig insects from mounds with their claws. Because they are toothless, they use their extremely long tongues (up to 16 inches in the larger species) to collect their prey. Large salivary glands coat the long tongue with a gummy mucus to which ants and termites stick. Their stomach is also specially adapted for grinding food. This process is helped along by the small stones and sand pangolins consume.
For protection, pangolins rely on their ability to roll themselves into a ball. This is done successfully for protection in the wild since it takes considerable force to unroll them. The cutting action of their armor-plated scales, worked by powerful muscles, protect them, too, by inflicting serious wounds on anything inserted between them. Leopards and other large animals, such as hyenas, occasionally prey on pangolins, but they are obviously well-protected from its predators.
These mechanisms are, however, not adequate protection against man and pangolins now are reported to be the most trafficked animal in the world. Their scales and body parts are revered in Eastern Medicine and their meat regarded as a delicacy.
How you can get involved
Have you ever seen a Pangolin in the wild? Every sighting – no matter how long ago it was – contributes to building a better picture of Pangolin populations and distribution, which is critical to their successful conservation.
Record your historic sighting here today.