SANParks Raises Awareness on World Pangolin Day

Feb 18, 2016
SANParks Raises Awareness on World Pangolin Day
A pangolin walking in the Kalahari. Photo by Darren Pietersen

South African National Park (SANParks) is observing the fifth annual World Pangolin Day on Saturday 20 February. Pangolins, often called “scaly anteaters” are increasingly threatened in Africa and South Africa. From illegal trade and habitat loss to accidental death on electric fences, all eight Pangolin species worldwide are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable to Critically Endangered. The only South African species, Ground Pangolins (Smutsia temminckii), have been found in Kruger National Park (KNP), Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Mapungubwe National Park and Marakele National Park.

According to KNP General Manager: Conservation Management Dr Freek Venter, “These solitary mammals are nocturnal and highly secretive, thus it is difficult for scientists to study them in the wild, and many mysteries remain about their behavior and habits. It is also unknown how long pangolins can live in the wild, though pangolins have reportedly lived as long as twenty years in captivity.”

Pangolins are covered in tough, overlapping scales which assist in protecting them when they are threatened as they are able to quickly roll themselves up into a tight defensive ball.  These burrowing mammals eat ants and termites using an extraordinarily long, sticky tongue. They are also one of the few four legged animals to walk on two legs, this is due to their large claws.

The Chinese pangolin sleep in underground burrows during the day, whilst the African tree pangolins and Malayan pangolins are known to sleep in trees. They emerge in the evening to forage for insects.

Pangolins are well adapted for digging: they dig burrows with their strong front legs and claws, using their tails and rear legs for support and balance. Tunneling underground, they excavate the sides and roofs of passages by pushing up and from side to side with their tough scaled bodies. They use their front and hind feet to back accumulated soil toward the burrow entrance, and vigorously kick dirt out of the entrance up to a meter or more.

In some cultures it is believed that Pangolins possess healing powers and for this reason they are regularly used in traditional medicine. Pangolins are also considered a delicacy and are in high demand in countries such as China and Vietnam. This is what makes them the most trafficked animal in the world.

When you visit the one of the SANParks try to spot these illusive mammals and report the rare and special sighting. “Wildlife Crime needs to be eradicated and all citizens need to stand up and protect our heritage before it’s too late,” concluded Dr Venter.

SANParks Raises Awareness on World Pangolin Day

South African National Park (SANParks) is observing the fifth annual World Pangolin Day on Saturday 20 February. Pangolins, often called “scaly anteaters” are increasingly threatened in Africa and South Africa. From illegal trade and habitat loss to accidental death on electric fences, all eight Pangolin species worldwide are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable to Critically Endangered. The only South African species, Ground Pangolins (Smutsia temminckii), have been found in Kruger National Park (KNP), Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Mapungubwe National Park and Marakele National Park.

According to KNP General Manager: Conservation Management Dr Freek Venter, “These solitary mammals are nocturnal and highly secretive, thus it is difficult for scientists to study them in the wild, and many mysteries remain about their behavior and habits. It is also unknown how long pangolins can live in the wild, though pangolins have reportedly lived as long as twenty years in captivity.”

Pangolins are covered in tough, overlapping scales which assist in protecting them when they are threatened as they are able to quickly roll themselves up into a tight defensive ball.  These burrowing mammals eat ants and termites using an extraordinarily long, sticky tongue. They are also one of the few four legged animals to walk on two legs, this is due to their large claws.

The Chinese pangolin sleep in underground burrows during the day, whilst the African tree pangolins and Malayan pangolins are known to sleep in trees. They emerge in the evening to forage for insects.

Pangolins are well adapted for digging: they dig burrows with their strong front legs and claws, using their tails and rear legs for support and balance. Tunneling underground, they excavate the sides and roofs of passages by pushing up and from side to side with their tough scaled bodies. They use their front and hind feet to back accumulated soil toward the burrow entrance, and vigorously kick dirt out of the entrance up to a meter or more.

In some cultures it is believed that Pangolins possess healing powers and for this reason they are regularly used in traditional medicine. Pangolins are also considered a delicacy and are in high demand in countries such as China and Vietnam. This is what makes them the most trafficked animal in the world.

When you visit the one of the SANParks try to spot these illusive mammals and report the rare and special sighting. “Wildlife Crime needs to be eradicated and all citizens need to stand up and protect our heritage before it’s too late,” concluded Dr Venter.

Citizen scientists are encouraged to submit sightings records of Pangolins to the African Pangolin Working Group at http://pangolin.org.za/index.php/report-a-sighting/ .

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