Conservation-led travel company &Beyond has reintroduced the highly endangered Temminck’s ground pangolin at Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, to reverse the local extinction of the species KwaZulu Natal.
Working in conjunction with the African Pangolin Working Group (APWG), the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital and the Humane Society International (HSI) Africa, &Beyond has released a number of pangolins retrieved from poachers or illegal wildlife traffickers across South Africa in operations undertaken by the South African Police Service and the APWG.
The world’s most intensively poached and trafficked mammal, the pangolin is on the verge of extinction around the world. A near insatiable demand for their scales, which are used in traditional medicine in the Far East, has left all four of Asia’s pangolin species facing extinction.
The four remaining African species have increasingly become targeted, with 68 tons of scales – representing an estimated 120 000 African pangolin – being intercepted by law enforcement agencies and customs officials at ports in both Africa and Asia in 2019 alone. Since 2016, more than 174 tons of scales have been intercepted, representing more than 300 000 African pangolins.
While the savannahs of KwaZulu-Natal were once home to a healthy population, pangolin are thought to have gone extinct in the area. The selection of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve as the first pangolin release site in the province offers an opportunity to change that.
Simon Naylor, Reserve Manager, says: “We were one of the first private or state-owned reserves to attempt the reintroduction of lion, cheetah, elephant and buffalo. Smaller species such as serval, klipspringers, rock hyrax and caracals have all been brought back to the area. The Temminck’s ground pangolin is one of the last remaining mammals to be reintroduced to an area where they once occurred but where they went extinct.”
“This reintroduction attempt is important for a number of reasons. If successful, it could provide a breeding nucleus from which to create further populations of this threatened species. In this way, it brings back a species thought to be extinct in this province. We are very proud to be partnering with the APWG and to be the recipients of the pangolins in their care,” says Professor Ray Jansen, Chairman of the APWG.
While many of the costs that come with the extensive monitoring and research programme have been covered through grants by interested parties such as the Oak Foundation and Ichikowitz Foundation, &Beyond has also launched a Pangolin Conservation Experience that will not only bring in additional income for the project but will also serve as an opportunity to highlight to guests the threats facing the pangolin. As part of the experience, guests can choose to fund the periodic replacement of the tags that are attached to the pangolins’ scales and used to track them. In return, they will get to witness the delicate operation and get to spend some time following the little mammal and monitoring its behaviour.
To book your Pangolin Conservation Experience or to visit &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, please log on to www.andBeyond.com or contact your preferred travel provider.