Wild Pangolin with GPS Tag, Credit Barry Butler
Thank you for supporting David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) Protecting Pangolins.
Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world. The exact pangolin population figure remains unknown due to the species’ shy nature and nocturnal habits. What is known is that over one million pangolins are believed to have been traded illegally in the last decade.
Kenya is home to the Temminck’s Ground Pangolin (S. temminckii), and the Giant Ground Pangolin (S.gigantea). With help from DSWF funding, our project partners in Kenya are currently conducting a pangolin population survey across protected regions in the Greater Mara Ecosystem in Kenya. These surveys enable them to evaluate and measure the impact of their wider pangolin conservation programme, which DSWF also supports.
Pangolins are notoriously hard to find. They are nocturnal, silent, small and well camouflaged. Female pangolins are known to have a large home range which may overlap with another pangolins range. They live in burrows which can be as big as 18 feet long and have multiple entrances and many chambers. Their burrows are often shared with other wildlife such as aardvarks and warthogs.
The team firstly identify a pangolin burrow then they set up a camera trap and awaiting a sighting of a Pangolin to identify it. Pangolins do not have overly identifiable markings, so it makes identifying individuals from camera trap images difficult. Whereas with big cats and elephants a tracking collar can be used to monitor and track them, Pangolins require a tracking tag attached to one of its tail scales. These are designed to be safe and harmless to the pangolin whilst not limiting its natural behaviours or movements.
Through tagging pangolins, the team can then monitor the pangolin via GPS and track it in the field. Although it is still difficult to track them during the day when they can be far below ground in the burrow. The GPS locations area analysed to show range and which areas are pangolin hot spots. This is then used to establish ranger and anti-poaching patrols to ensure these pangolin hot spots receive prioritised protection. Where pangolin ranges are identified close to local communities, rangers are deployed to provide community outreach to minimise the risk of human wildlife conflict and provide education to the communities to increase protection of the species.
As there is little published research on Pangolin behaviour and habitat. The tracking data and camera trap footage also provides information on pangolin movement, range, breeding, social dynamics as well as preferred habitat which all provides vital insights to assist in the development of an effective conservation strategy through a deeper understanding of the species and it’s needs for survival.
We recently received amazing news from the team on the ground in Kenya that one of the tagged pangolins being monitored in the protected area has a new pup! In actual fact, this will be her fourth pup since 2019. Proving that with the required support and protection pangolin populations are able to increase year on year. With your continued support we can ensure this shy but wonderful animal is protected for future generations.
Find out more about our work with Pangolins
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Pangolin Burrow & Camera trap, Credit Barry Butler
Camera trap Image of Pangolin, Credit Barry Butler