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Saving the Scaly Anteaters: How to See and Protect Pangolins in Africa

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Devryn Panaino

Safari Travel Planner

Safari Enquiry
 Devryn Panaino

Author: Devryn Panaino - 16 August 2023

Last Update: 30 January 2024

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are among the most trafficked mammals in the world, with over a million of them taken from the wild in the past decade. Despite international efforts to curb their illegal trade, the demand for their scales and meat, used in traditional medicine and as a delicacy in some Asian countries, continues to fuel this devastating traffic.

With all eight species listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there is an urgent need to protect and conserve these unique creatures.

The Threats Facing Pangolins

Pangolins are heavily poached and trafficked due to the high demand for their scales and meat. The scales are believed to have medicinal properties in some traditional medicine systems, while their meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of Asia.

The four African species, the giant ground pangolin, the white-bellied pangolin, the black-bellied pangolin, and the Temminck’s ground pangolin, are particularly at risk due to this illegal trade.

Seeing a pangolin in the wild is a rare and special experience, as they are nocturnal, shy, and well-camouflaged. However, joining a conservation project or a specialized safari that focuses on pangolins offers a better chance of spotting them and contributing to their conservation.

Pangolin Conservation Projects in Africa

Pangolin Conservation & Research Foundation (PCRF): This non-profit organization operates in southern Africa, working to ensure a sustainable future for pangolins through conservation, research, collaboration, education, and community engagement. Their projects include monitoring, rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing pangolins back into the wild. They also offer volunteer opportunities and educational programs for those interested in supporting their work.

You can support them here.

Pangolin.Africa: Another non-profit organization, Pangolin.Africa, aims to raise awareness and funds for pangolin conservation across Africa. They produce documentaries, campaigns, and events to spread the word about pangolins. Their Pangolert initiative allows people to record live or historic sightings of pangolins through a simple app, helping to gather data on population numbers and distribution. Additionally, they partner with various lodges and reserves with pangolin programs or sightings.

You can support them here.

Best Places to See Pangolins in Africa

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve: As a luxury private reserve in South Africa, Tswalu is home to the largest population of free-roaming Temminck’s ground pangolins in the country. Their dedicated Pangolin Project conducts research on the ecology and behavior of these animals. Guests can join researchers on night drives to track and observe pangolins in their natural habitat.

Okonjima Nature Reserve: This luxury private reserve in Namibia is known for its cheetah and leopard conservation projects. However, their Pangolin Research Project focuses on the population dynamics, home range, diet, and threats of the Temminck’s ground pangolins in the area. They also rescue and rehabilitate injured or confiscated pangolins for release back into the wild. Guests can join night drives to see these elusive creatures.

Our safari expert Matthys recently spotted one himself
Our safari expert Matthys recently spotted one himself at Sabi Sands

Ol Pejeta Conservancy: This wildlife sanctuary in Kenya hosts the largest black rhino population in East Africa and a Pangolin Project that works to protect and monitor the giant ground pangolins and tree pangolins living there. They use camera traps, radio collars, and field surveys to collect data on distribution, abundance, activity patterns, and threats. They also rescue and rehabilitate injured or orphaned pangolins for release back into the wild.

The pangolin’s plight is a stark reminder of the devastating impacts of illegal wildlife trafficking. By supporting conservation projects, visiting reserves that prioritize pangolin protection, and raising awareness about these unique creatures, we can contribute to their survival and ensure their presence in the African wilderness for future generations.

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