In a world first, conservationists have managed to successfully release seven Temminck’s (ground) pangolins back into the wild where they were previously extinct. These pangolins are the first to exist in Kwa-Zulu Natal since the 1980s.
Each with their own tragic story, they were all rescued through the combined efforts of the African Pangolin Working Group, police units belonging to the Endangered Species Unit, Organised Crime and K9, as well as the Green Scorpions and the Hawks.
Often without food and water for up to two weeks and with underlying health issues, these particular pangolins were rehabilitated at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital.
Once fully rehabilitated, four females and three males were selected for release as part of a long term project to establish a viable population of pangolins in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Because releasing pangolins back into the wild is a challenging process, their release site needed to be carefully assessed. Three key factors needed to be taken into account. The size of the release site, the presence of an on the ground monitoring team and access to food. Pangolins travel vast distances, particularly when released into a new environment. Constant monitoring to track their movements is key to ensuring that they don’t wander off into nearby community areas of farms. Additionally, monitoring their overall health and progress in general is extremely important. The pangolin diet consists of termites and ants and previous attempts to release pangolin have failed purely because they were unable to find food in their new locations. These particular pangolins were acclimatized to their new home with daily ‘walks’ to ensure they would easily adapt and find food.
Two tracking devices were attached to each animal and have been extensively monitored for several months. Sadly two pangolins did not survive, one succumbing to illness and the other killed by a crocodile.
We are extremely excited to watch the progress of the remaining five pangolins and even more excited that they are homed in our own ‘backyard’, Kwa-Zulu Natal. Long term plans are in place for more of these scaly creatures to be released in the northern sections of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Congratulations to all involved in this wonderful conservation success story!
When you’re ready, we’ll be waiting! #wewillbewaiting.
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