The AfriCat Pangolin Research Project is the first of its kind within Namibia to focus on the ecology of the ground pangolin. The team would like to buy more equipment - camera traps and tracking devices - to help them find out more about these wonderful animals and how to help and protect them. The Okonjima Nature reserve is an approved site for the release of rescued and confiscated pangolin, but what is a pangolin? 

 Pangolin mother and baby in the okonjima nature reserve

Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters and despite their dinosaur or reptilian-like appearance, are in fact mammals.  They are predominantly nocturnal elusive creatures spending their days in burrows or trees resting.  Once the temperature is ‘right’ for foraging, they begin to become active.

Pangolins eat ants and termites and help the ecosystem by controlling the numbers of these insects. While they do not have great vision, they do have an amazing sense of smell, with this they are able to sniff out ant and termite nests. 

They use their long sticky tongue, which is as long as the body and extremely flexible, to eat their prey. They use their powerful front paws to dig.  Pangolins do not have teeth but rather a strong, gizzard-like stomach that has keratinous spines which aids in grinding up the ants and termites.  While feeding they also ingest small stones and sand which also help grind up their prey.

There are eight pangolin species occurring between Asia and Africa and are covered in scales which are made up of keratin.

 close up of a pangolin in Namibia

Pangolins are currently in big trouble. They are being caught in their thousands and sold mainly for their scales which are thought to have medicinal properties in traditional eastern medicine and as a delicacy. In just one recent haul 12.7 tons of pangolin scales were seized in Singapore which represents around 36,000 animals. This is just the tip of the iceberg. While trafficking is the pangolin’s biggest threat they also die as a result of vehicle accidents and being electrocuted on electric fencing. The loss of habitat, drought and persecution by scared villagers also has an impact on numbers and their future survival. They don’t have many natural predators as their scales are very protective when they roll into a tight ball.

There are different things one can do to support the Pangolin for example you could:

  1. TWEET using the hashtag #WorldPangolinDay
  2. LIKE the World Pangolin Day Facebook page
  3. BLOG about pangolins on World Pangolin Day
  4. SHARE pangolin information on your social media networks
  5. CREATE pangolin art — paint, draw, sculpt, tattoo
  6. EDUCATE by giving a presentation about pangolins at school
  7. SUPPORT organizations which are working to protect pangolins like REST and those undertaking research like that at AfriCat
  8. HOST a World Pangolin Day party or event
  9. BAKE cookies or a cake in the shape of a pangolin
  10. REQUEST full enforcement of laws and penalties for smuggling pangolins (and other wildlife)
  11. INFORM traditional medicine prescribers that the use of pangolin scales is illegal

World Pangolin Day and we at AfriCat would love to see any pictures.

 adult pangolin being monitored by the research team at Okonjima Lodge