Dubbed the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin is a gentle, solitary animal with a tongue as long as its body and which curls itself into a ball when threatened. Of the world’s eight species of pangolin, four occur in Africa; the giant, the ground, the white-bellied (or tree) and the black-bellied pangolin. All four species are listed on CITES Appendix I, prohibiting all commercial international trade.
A pangolin’s body is covered in scales for which there is an increasing demand for its use in traditional medicine. Brutally persecuted for their scales as well as meat, pangolin numbers are plummeting. Around 100,000 are taken from the wild in Africa and Asia each year, driving a silent extinction. Populations have declined dramatically across the continent, with pockets of isolated wilderness areas retaining the last healthy populations. Well-managed parks in key range states and collective cooperation to ensure the implementation of sound policy are of paramount importance to securing a future for pangolins.
In 2019, African Parks and Tikki Hywood Foundation pioneered a partnership combining expertise and resources to boost the protection of pangolins in Africa. The provision of a safe and suitable habitat is crucial for the long-term survival of pangolins. Their partnership comprises of cross-continent cooperation, harnessing Tikki Hywood Foundation's specialised species knowledge and skills and African Parks' operational capacity in remote areas to rescue, rehabilitate and release trafficked or vulnerable animals into parks managed by African Parks in partnership with governments.
How We're Saving the Pangolins
Protecting Against Poaching
African Parks rangers protect dangerously-trafficked pangolins from poachers. With the largest ranger force for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks provides safety and security for the wildlife and habitats in each park under our management, as well as the surrounding communities and broader region. In 2021 alone, our rangers conducted 193,581 ranger patrol days; 2,687 arrests were made, and over 26,459 snares removed across all the parks. The thousands of foot, horseback, boat, vehicle and aerial patrols we conduct year-round are also complemented by networks of supporting communities who provide information on poachers and other illegal activities.
Investing in Local Communities
African Parks is often the largest employer in every place in which we work. We invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure – to provide effective park management and attract tourism to the parks – all of which benefits the local communities. By helping to bring jobs, schools, healthcare and revenue to the areas around protected areas, we are creating partnerships with local communities who are buying-in to the long-term conservation of their national parks. This discourages both active and indirect assistance of those looking to illegally hunt wildlife, as they benefit directly from the parks’ presence and the high-value wildlife that live there.
Pangolins occur in 14 of the 19 protected areas under our management. Not all parks have confirmed records, but if the habitat is acceptable they have been listed as present as it is a species that is nearly impossible to confirm extinct due to their secretive nature. The only exception to this is Pendjari and W National Parks in Benin where the last record is from the 1970s of a giant pangolin and, despite continuous camera trapping, has not been seen since.