Pangolins, or ‘scaly anteaters’ as they are often called, are fascinating mammals covered head-to-toe in overlapping keratin scales. By using large front claws and an incredibly long & sticky tongue, pangolins hunt and survive on a diet of ants and termites. Each of the 8 species share these common characteristics, as well as a rapidly declining population due to poaching.
The word ‘pangolin’ is derived from the Malay word pengguling which translates to “one who rolls up.” A pangolin’s best defense is to roll in a ball and “hope for the best” – using its overlapping scales as protection against a predators bite or grasp, rendering them easily captured by poachers.
Africa is home to 4 species of pangolin
aka Temminck’s Ground Pangolin
-Found in Southern & Eastern Africa, falling under the range of Global Conservation Force’s APU partner – Protrack. Habitat is in savannah woodlands and scrublands at low elevations.
aka White-Bellied Pangolin
Lives in rainforests of Central & West Africa. Great swimmers (believe it or not!) and named after their unique scale shape (tricuspis -> three points). Prehensile tail adapted for an arboreal life of grasping, grabbing and hanging.
Giant Ground Pangolin
Largest species of pangolin, weighing over 30 kg (~65 pounds) and one of the least-studied. Can be found in, Central and West African, savannas, rainforests, and forests – anywhere there is a large termite population and water.
aka Black-Bellied Pangolin
The smallest of all pangolin species, usually weighing only 2-3 kg (~4-6 lbs.) Habitat overlaps with the Tree Pangolin. Almost exclusively arboreal, surviving on tree-dwelling ants and termites.
The other 4 pangolin species call Asia home:
Lives in grasslands and forest habitats of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan. Nocturnal and ground-dwelling, they spend most of their day in an underground burrow or rock-crevice.
Smallest range of all pangolin species – found only in the Palawan province of the Philippines, In the past, the Philippine Pangolin was considered to be a subspecies of the Sunda Pangolin, however after thorough evolutionary and genetic research it was found to be a distinct species.
Found in subtropical & deciduous forests of Eastern & Southern Asia. Like other pangolin species they are mainly solitary except for breeding or a mother with a youngster. Mothers protect their babies by carrying them on their backs or tails and moving them quickly to their underside and rolling in a ball if danger approaches.
Habitat is in the forests and plantation lands of Southeast Asia. Significantly affected by palm oil harvesting, as they often find shelter on these plantations. Preyed upon by the large cats, such as tigers and clouded leopards; however their biggest predator is humans.
Just like rhinos, and many other wildlife species, pangolins are falsely believed to possess medicinal and spiritual properties. In some Asian cultures, the scales of pangolin are believed to cure hangovers, impotence, and even cancer. Pangolin meat is considered a rare delicacy in several countries, a ‘luxury’ reserved only for the most elite. Somewhat ironically, pangolins are also suffering in Africa due to the bush meat trade. In some countries the locals are willing to eat any animal they come across to sustain themselves and their families.
As a result of the dramatic decline in pangolin populations and the rapidly increasing demand for their meat, scales and other products, there has been significant attention given to protecting pangolins. Since 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified all pangolin species as being threatened with extinction. In the fall of 2016, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) granted all 8 pangolin species the highest level of protection – banning all commercial international trade in wild caught specimens. However, we may see an increase in the number of pangolins taken from the wild due to a higher profit for the poachers – as the supply decreases, the demand (and monetary value) will increase. One of the most important components of combating the illegal trade in pangolin is law enforcement; protecting wild pangolins and confiscating those that have been captured live.
For far too long, the pangolin has silently suffered under the pressures of the black market trade – a fate Global Conservation Force is all too familiar with. However, light is beginning to be shed on the world’s most trafficked mammal and the news is unsettling. Over one million pangolins have been poached in the last decade, significantly more than the number of elephants, rhinos, and giraffe poached in the same time period combined.
Check Out Our Projects!
Help us secure a future for pangolins
Pangolin Protection – Anti Poaching Units – Africa and Asia
Global Conservation Force spends a great deal of its time and resources training, advancing, fortifying, employing and mentoring anti poaching units across Eastern and Southern Africa, South East Asia, and Indonesia. These programs take community hired rangers and make them more efficient and effective in their daily patrols and wildlife protection duties. With the sponsored patrol gear and technology such as camera traps and hand held GPS units we are able to advance the habitat protection of multiple pangolin species.
Pangolin Protectors – Nigeria
In early 2020, Global Conservation Force partners with Charles Emogor, Cambridge University PhD student, who founded a project called Pangolino. Pangolino aims to connect the rural communities of Nigeria to wildlife conservation and protection efforts by ranger employment, education outreach, and assisting the research and population monitoring of pangolins. Nigeria stands to be a major hub for poaching of pangolin and illegal wildlife trafficking export of pangolin s. By teaming up with the local rural communities and creating local wildlife guardians we are paving the way for a brighter future for people and pangolins in West Africa.
Global Conservation Force has provided direct project development support with Lauren Ayres Martinez leading the creation of a wildlife conservation activity workbook, and the development of several social media based programs. Global Conservation Force will also train, fund, and equip the selected community members who will join the ranger team as “Pangolin Protectors.” In 2021 GCF will purchase 2000 conservation workbooks, 1000 Pangolin Protector shirts for the local community, and deploy several anti poaching instructors to train the rangers.
K9s To The Rescue!
With their speed, natural hunting instincts, and incredible sense of smell, K9s are proving to be helpful partners to conservationists and anti-poaching units (APUs) across Africa. According to the South African Wildlife College’s counter-poaching data, when responding to incursions without any K9 asset, apprehension rates are about 3 – 5%. K9 units see a dramatically higher apprehension rate of about 54%!
In recent years, we have substantially increased our K9 efforts, and our own unit! In October 2020, we started a young English Labrador, Clive, with Scent Imprint Conservation Dogs to become a dedicated pangolin conservation K9. Clive’s duties are focused on the scent detection and tracking of pangolins and endangered turtles in the remote forests of Bangladesh. Clive will join the Creative Conservation Alliance, NPO, researchers in late 2021 to start his full-time job helping to do population research and search and seizures of illegally trafficked wildlife.
Denali, GCF F Black Malinois, as part of her field operation rotations in 2020, was one of the dedicated K9s at the Rhino Revolution wildlife rehabilitation center in South Africa. This center takes in confiscated pangolin and orphaned rhinos as part of its mission.
Wild Warriors – Wildlife Education Outreach – Vietnam
Global Conservation Force has continued to tackle wildlife demand and trafficking issues with educational outreach courses in demand countries. One of those core projects in our Wild Warriors Project, in partnership with Wildhand, in Hanoi, Vietnam. Pangolin, rhino horn, ivory, shark fin, bear bile, the illegal pet trade, plastic pollution, and unethical tourist animal interactions are key components of the curriculum.
Our work with the Wild Warriors program in Vietnam promises a new perspective on wildlife. Lauren lee, GCF Education Coordinator, a mentor of these courses visited the Wildhand team at the beginning of March 2019 for the start of the program. During this visit, the team was on their way to creating their second lesson for the students on bears and bear bile-a hot topic that can be found in the areas surrounding the school. We focus on using education as a tool for combating human-wildlife issues like trafficking. Other local NGOs like Animals Asia have also provided more educational materials and resources like synthetic botanic bear bile. The students are always eager to learn in these interactive courses and prove that there is still hope for change!
Education coordinator, Lauren lee, continues to help support, develop, and mentor this project as the team wraps up the second year and prepares for the 2021 project launch.
Supporting Wildlife Rehabilitation Facilities
To keep our efforts diverse and impactful we work to support veterinarians, conservationists, and wildlife rehab facilities who work directly to rescue and rehabilitates pangolins. Over the years, we have provided monetary support to Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, R. E. S. T., and the Johannesburg Veterinary Hospital. We have several goals for the coming years and hope to be able to support more great rescue efforts!
WILDLIFE TRADING CARD SERIES
Global Conservation Force (GCF) has partnered with Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW) to help with their mission of protecting wildlife and eliminating illegal trade in Vietnam. One of the ways SVW is helping combat demand for wildlife is through educational programs with school-aged children. While educational programs such as these have proven to change attitudes for the children who attend them, it can become a challenge to keep the ideas of conservation alive once the children leave the program.
In order to keep kids engaged in conservation, caring about wildlife, and spreading awareness of the plight of endangered animals, SVW & GCF developed a trading card series featuring 8 of the most vulnerable species in Vietnam. GCF Pangolin Project Coordinator, Lauren Ayres Martinez, developed these cards alongside the SVW education team in order to make them aesthetically pleasing with clear & concise messaging. After attending the SVW educational program, each child is given a trading card featuring one of the eight species, the hope is for kids to share the information from their cards with each other and their family at home to keep the idea of conservation alive long after they leave the SVW program. By creating a “Pokemon” style trading card, kids are able to trade & collect cards in order to have all 8 species, while important conservation messages are taught.
When GCF representatives visited SVW in April of 2018, 250 sets of cards were printed to kick-start the new trading card program, which allowed at least 2000 students to have a trading card of their own. Now that the school year has begun again and SVW has started their 2018-2019 primary school education programs, GCF is hoping to provide more trading cards for the education team to distribute. We are offering the opportunity for our supporters to help spread the message of wildlife conservation through these trading cards. $10 will provide a full set (8 species) of cards to a student, $50 will provide 1 card for each child in an entire class, $250 will provide a full set of cards for each child in a class, and $1000 will provide a full set of cards for each child in an entire grade!