Learn more about the most poached mammal in the world...Do what you can to raise awareness of its plight!
Part of our DNA here at Nyala Safari Lodge is to make guests aware of the plight of some of our most endangered wildlife species. And the MOST endangered of these animals is not the rhino, or the elephant – it’s an animal most have never even heard of – the pangolin.
Although hardly ever seen due to its secretive habits, this amazing little scaly anteater is the world’s most trafficked mammal, with its scales and its flesh highly prized in Asia. Here in South Africa we have the ground pangolin, also known as the Cape or Temminck’s pangolin. There are three other species in Africa – the giant pangolin, long-tailed or black-bellied pangolin and tree or white-bellied pangolin.
The Cape and giant pangolins are ground dwellers whereas the black and white bellied species are arboreal, living and hunting mainly in trees.
All of these amazing little animals live exclusively on a diet of ants, eating millions each week, spending their time foraging for ant nests, digging these up and mopping up the insects with an incredibly long, sticky tongue that’s actually longer than its body!
Not much is known about pangolins – for example, we have no idea how long they live in the wild. They are exceptionally difficult to keep in captivity too. These gentle creatures are easy to catch as when they are threatened they curl up into a protective ball, using their scales to protect themselves. Their scales are made of keratin – the same material as our fingernails and the horn of one of Africa’s other endangered mammals – the rhino. This makes them top of the poacher’s list as their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine throughout South East Asia. The Chinese also consider pangolin meat a delicacy.
Because we do not know how many pangolins we have in the wild, it’s impossible to work out what the chances are that this amazing animal will go extinct in our lifetimes. But we do know that shipping containers full of tons of scales are regularly apprehended in the far east, en route to China. Every ton of scales represents roughly 2000 pangolins and it’s estimated that we have lost more than a million of these animals in the last 10 years.
So while you may not see a pangolin during your stay with us, we encourage you to find out more about this wonderful little animal and do what you can to raise awareness of its plight!