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Protecting Pangolins

US$2000 for pangolin transmitter tags and support for a K9 Protection Unit

Worth Wild Africa has raised $2000 to enable the purchase of pangolin transmitter tags and equipment for the anti-poaching canine unit at Manyoni Private Game Reserve, working in association with the Zululand Conservation Trust in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. 

The Temmink's Ground Pangolin has been poached and trafficked so much that it is sadly now listed as vulnerable to extinction. It is perhaps the world's most trafficked mammal. Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same as hair and fingernails, and have no medicinal properties whatsoever, yet are highly valued in markets in the far East.

In 2019, the Zululand Conservation Trust (ZCT) partnered with the African Pangolin Working Group to become a release site for pangolins rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. Unfortunately the post-release survival rate of the species is low. As little is known about their feeding and behaviour in general, the ZCT quickly realised that these vulnerable rehabilitated individuals require an intensive ‘soft-release’ programme to maximise their chances of survival in their new home.

Since 2019 the programme has successfully released 17 pangolins back into the wild on Manyoni Private Game Reserve, over which the ZCT has custodianship. To help ensure that each pangolin continues to thrive and the ZCT can contribute meaningful data to the pool of understanding about this very threatened species, each individual is tagged and monitored continuously after release, transmitting satellite data using the LoRa network. Their weight and feeding behaviour is monitored and their movements tracked so that they can be transported back to safe areas if they try to cross the perimeters of the game reserve. 

Some of the released pangolins have even bred and five wild pangopups have been born in the last four years. As Temminck's Ground Pangolin was regionally extinct for approximately 70 years, this story and programme has been an unparalleled success to date.

The transmitter tags are attached to the scales of pangolins. Unfortunately scales sometimes chip or break, causing the tags to come off and tags only have a 3-month lifespan. Pangolins then need to be located and retagged, not always a simple task.

In 2021, the ZCT established a K9 unit to counter poachers and locate and respond to other potential security threats to the pangolins and the many other animals at Manyoni.  Realising that scent-detection dogs could have multiple uses they investigated whether Thor, a Bavarian Mountain Hound, could learn to follow pangolin scent. He can, and this proved to be a huge success when in 2022, Thor found Rusty the pangolin who had not been seen in two years!

ZCT shares, “We are extremely appreciative of Worth Wild Africa, who have donated USD2000 for the continuation of this project. The average lifespan of a pangolin tag averages 3 months, which means we spend a lot of money on tag replacements. With this donation, we are now able to trial a prototype tag which can be wirelessly recharged – which means we can increase our tag lifespan to two years and will save significant project costs in future”.

Worth Wild Africa and our supporters are very proud to help support this amazing work and aid the survival of this unique and charming mammal that is so gravely persecuted.


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