Shockingly, it is estimated that one pangolin is poached from the wild in Africa every five minutes. They are the most trafficked animals in the world with more than one million poached over the last decade.
Experts warn that two critically endangered pangolin species – the Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin – could be wiped out within this decade. We need to act now.
Recently, our team rushed to the scene where a pangolin was rescued from poachers in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert. The poor creature was in terrible condition – traumatized and nearly dead. Poachers show no mercy to these innocent animals. They’re forcefully unrolled from their protective positions, or their skin is burned with paraffin or petrol to “clean” them of parasites. They are bludgeoned with machetes, smashed with rocks, or thrown into boiling water.
Pangolins are in such danger from poachers that we must keep secret the location of a pangolin rehabilitation sanctuary where we work. It is run by Machel van Niekerk, a highly qualified veterinary nurse, who manages the sanctuary with vital help from scientists from Pangolin(Dot)Africa.
During the rehabilitation process, pangolins are as vulnerable as newborn infants; they must be kept warm and they have very specific dietary requirements that can never be met outside of their natural environment. Once rescued, when pangolins are well enough they need to be taken for walks every three to five hours to forage and readjust to their natural way of life. Someone must be with them every step of the way. This is a time-consuming and exhausting job.
Pangolins are extremely vulnerable to stress, making them very difficult to keep in captivity. Most die within six months of capture, which is why it is so important that they are returned to the wild quickly.
After three long days and nights of intensive care, our pangolin was strong enough to be released! To make sure we can keep track of him in the future, we fitted him with a satellite tracking device.