As one of the most trafficked species on the planet, the pangolin has quickly become a top priority in conservation. There are a total of eight pangolin species spread throughout Africa and Asia, six of which have been listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
They are frequent targets for poaching because their scales are used in some traditional medicines or in luxury food. While the demand generally stems from Asia, African populations are also targeted for international trade.
Rainforest Trust has worked to safeguard critical pangolin habitat across both continents, and the dedicated individuals in our conservation network have gone above and beyond to protect this imperiled species.
To honor this World Pangolin Day, we would like to celebrate the rescue and reintroduction of Louis, a Temminck’s Pangolin.
Last May, Rainforest Trust Fellow Oldrich Van Schalkwyk and his organization, Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), caught word that a pangolin was being offered for sale in a South African village. With the help of an informant, EWT and local rangers were able to conduct a successful sting operation and rescue within the span of an hour.
The pangolin was rushed to the Medike Nature Reserve, which Rainforest Trust helped establish in 2018. Once safely in the reserve, he was able to recover from his traumatic time in captivity. He was affectionately named “Louis” after Louis Trichardt, the South African town where he was found.
But the rescue process did not stop there– when he was healthy again, Louis was able to begin the reintroduction process back into his natural habitat.
The release of an animal back into the wild is often a slow process to ensure it’s long-term survival. EWT decided to release Louis on a reserve in Zululand, South Africa, as part of an exciting new program focused on reintroducing the species to the area. He was accompanied by a pregnant female pangolin named Luna, who was also rescued from the illegal trade.
Temminck’s Pangolins are primarily nocturnal, so during the first phase, researchers escorted the pangolins to the release site each evening to forage, and returned them to sleep in EWT custody during the day. This phase took place over the course of several days until the two pangolins adapted to the landscape. Throughout the next phases, both pangolins were fitted with transmitters and released permanently into the habitat so they could be monitored through telemetry.
Recently, we received confirmation that Louis and Luna are doing well in their new home. Though these are just two pangolins of thousands, their rescue creates hope for the future of the species.
The first and most critical step in the protection of endangered species like pangolins is the creation of protected areas to safeguard their habitat. Since our founding over 30 years ago, Rainforest Trust has worked to do just that. We are honored to collaborate with so many incredible partner organizations to help us conduct this vital work and hope to be a part of many more success stories in the future.