The pangolin is the world’s most trafficked mammal. As a result, this elusive little fellow is now threatened with extinction across its home range. Pangolin numbers are now so low that every animal counts and we cannot afford to lose even one more!
The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s team in the Soutpansberg Mountains, led by Oldrich van Schalkwyk, received disturbing news last Saturday, 4 May, that a pangolin was being offered for sale in a neighbouring village. Working with rangers from the H12Leshiba Game Reserve and the South African Police Service, a sting operation was immediately launched to rescue this trafficking victim so that it could be safely returned to its wild habitat.
The suspects had contacted the reserve to offer the pangolin to them for R80,000, but were exposed by a brave informant, who negotiated with the sellers while the team put the sting operation in place. At 15:00, we were advised that the pangolin would be sold to someone in Johannesburg if the R80,000 was not forthcoming in the next hour, and knew there was little time left to save this terrified animal.
Unfortunately, the suspects were tipped off, and fled the scene before an arrest was possible. However, the woman and children in the house lead the team to the room where the animal was being kept. Amongst the clutter, Oldrich found the distressed pangolin hiding under a cupboard. The priority was to get the stressed and extremely dehydrated male pangolin to safety, and EWT staff took him to the EWT’s Medike Nature Reserve, where he could forage, drink water, and de-stress. Normally, pangolins absorb water from their food, rather than through drinking, but this poor animal was so dehydrated that he drank deeply from the water hole, after enjoying a meal of ants.
The next morning, this brave little survivor was taken by the African Pangolin Working Group to a specialist rehabilitation centre in Johannesburg, where he will be treated and cared for before being released back into the wild in the Soutpansberg. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, the vet found him to still be dehydrated, but in otherwise surprisingly good condition. It was extremely fortunate that we were able to rescue him after only a few days in captivity. Usually, these animals are only found after a much longer time in the trade, and often it is too late to save them.
A case has been opened against the suspects and the police are closing in, with an imminent arrest being on the cards.
But the fight to save this brave pangolin is not over!
When he is ready to be released, he needs to be fitted with a tracking device so that we can ensure his safety and continued wellbeing. All pangolins, without exception, are compromised both physically and mentally when rescued from the illegal trade. During the hospitalisation and rehabilitation process, the aim is to attain ‘full and fit health’ before release. However, old injuries and illness picked up during capture often reoccur post-release. There have been instances where these trauamtised animals have deteriorated post-release and had to be readmitted to hospital, or worse, have succumbed to their illnesses. That’s the last thing we want to see happen, and we’re sure you feel the same way. To prevent this, we need to monitor him via the tracking device, to enable us to rush to the pangolin’s aid if necessary. These tracking data will also give us a better understanding of the behaviour of these elusive creatures, helping us to conserve not just this pangolin, but many more of them in the future.
Will you help to save our pangolins?
Your donation will help to cover his veterinary costs, buy a tracking device, monitor him in the field for at least three months, and keep him, and other pangolins out of the illegal wildlife trade.
Tracking device: R20,000
Monitor pangolins in the field per day: R200
Pangolin rehabilitation costs: R30,000