With bodies covered in scales rather than fur, pangolins are among the world’s most unique animals. There are eight species worldwide: one in India, three in the rest of Asia and four in Africa.
Believed to be the world’s most trafficked animal, a single pangolin can fetch as much around R80,000 on the international black market. He is considered a delicacy in Asia and is often used in traditional medicine, both locally and abroad. In Africa, the pangolin is hunted for what is known as ‘bushmeat’ and provides sustenance to many. One of the other major threats the pangolin faces is electrocution from electric fences on game farms. The pangolin tries to crawl beneath the lowest wire of the fence, is electrocuted and then rolls into a ball (its natural behaviour). This in turn results in the animal being electrocuted to death.
Another concern is that the rate of poaching far outweighs the rate of reproduction. One female pangolin will have only one pup every two or three years, thus the ability to recover from a population crash will be near impossible. All eight species of the world’s pangolins are classified as either threatened to extinction or critically endangered.
The African Pangolin Working Group
The African Pangolin Working Group (APWG) was launched at the National Zoological Gardens (NZG) of South Africa (Pretoria Zoo) in February to highlight the conservation plight of one of Africa’s most enigmatic mammals. The NZG is actively involved with the APWG through various research projects in partnership with the working group. Genetic research on pangolins at the NZG, under the guidance of the NZG’s Prof Antoinette Kotze, has increased our knowledge of the Temminck’s ground pangolin and the other three African species. The NZG also conducts research on parasites found on pangolins.
For more information visit www.nzg.ac.za
The full article appears in the May issue of AnimalTalk.