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South Africa is on a Mission to Protect its Pangolins from Poachers

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Pangolins Need Protection

Pangolins, the world’s only mammals with scales. Unique creatures sometimes called scaly anteaters. Not well known and yet among the most poached and illegally trafficked animals in the world and nearing extinction because of high demand for their scales in Asian traditional medicine. Going for around 20,000 USD, many poaches ruthlessly hunt them for profit.

Professor Raymond Jansen, the chairman of the African Pangolin Working Group, describes the undergoing poaching and trading operations, “The majority of trade leaving Africa are dead pangolins in the form of loose scales in large sacks. But in southern Africa they are often brought to a willing buyer, someone perceived to be a wealthy individual where they ask large volumes of money for a living pangolin.”

Local Pangoolin-Protection Initiatives

The African Pangolin Working Group in South Africa — a team of veterinarians and wildlife experts — have been rehabilitating pangolins rescued from poachers for nearly a decade.
Many pangolins arrive traumatised at a Johannesburg wildlife clinic.

Nicci Wright, the founder of the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, gives an inside look into the situation, “When we receive those pangolins, they’re all compromised. Whether they’ve been with the poachers for a couple of days or sometimes up to two weeks. So we see pangolins in a variety of different physical states. Some are very emaciated, they’re skeletal, they got wounds, they got injuries, they go snare wounds. It’s pitiful, very very difficult to emotionally deal with that kind of suffering and abuse.”

Hope is on the Horizon

The group has recorded 97 tons of pangolin scales seized last year from smugglers attempting to transport them out of Africa — which equates to roughly 150,000 illegally trafficked animals – a 20% estimate of the total figure as not all cases are known by authorities.

Nevertheless, steadily growing anti-poaching initiatives in South Africa work in collaboration with the police to identify and catch poachers and traders, who often in undercover operations — to protect the country’s pangolins.