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The pangolins of Manyoni: A conservation success story

We can say with certainty that seeing one of the pangolins of Manyoni Private Game Reserve will be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. In just three years, the adult Temminck’s ground pangolins of Manyoni now total 14 and, to the absolute joy and pride of all, four pango-pups were born on the reserve last year. It is a huge triumph for pangolin conservation in Zululand, where the species has been locally extinct for almost 70 years. Accounting for about 20% of the entire illegal wildlife trade, pangolins are now the most trafficked mammals in the world. They are highly sought after for their meat and scales, which are made of keratin – the same material as your finger and toe nails. Rehabilitating and rewilding the pangolins of Manyoni The team at Manyoni work closely with the Zululand Conservation Trust, African Pangolin Working Group and the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital to establish a viable population of pangolins in the reserve. With the help of the South African Police Service (SAPS), the pangolins are confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade, arriving at the veterinary hospital in poor health due to the stress, dehydration and malnutrition suffered while with poachers. One of the pangolins of Manyoni Private Game Reserve inOnce they have made a full recovery under the intensive care and nursing by the dedicated vet team, the pangolins begin a ‘soft-release program’ in Manyoni and other designated reserves. Each day, their dedicated ‘pangolin shepherd’ takes them out into a part of the reserve most suitable for them to explore and encounter ant and termite mounds. If necessary, their shepherd will show them how to break into the mounds, where they will then use their long (up to 70cm), sticky tongues to slurp up the juicy ants. One of the pangolins of Manyoni digging in an ant mound during soft release phase During this first phase, the pangolins are monitored intensively to ensure they acclimatize, are able to find suitable food and gain enough weight before they are released fully. The soft release also provides an important and unique opportunity for research as little is known about these intriguing creatures. It takes two months on average for pangolins to be ready for the ‘hard release’ when they will go into the reserve equipped with a tracking device to allow the team to monitor and protect them.

The pangolin walking experience

This ground-breaking conservation program is resulting in a thriving – and growing – population of pangolins in Manyoni. It is providing a second chance for previously poached pangolins and contributing to the survival of the species. The pangolin program is financed solely from donor funding through the Zululand Conservation Trust. The tags, telemetry equipment, veterinary costs, vehicles and fuel, and salaries for the pangolin monitoring team are all vital but extremely costly. You can help give rescued Temminck’s ground pangolins another chance at a happy life by booking a pangolin walking experience. This is an amazing opportunity to see a pangolin first-hand as you walk with a pangolin and its shepherd during a monitoring session. Please note that this activity costs R1000 and is subject to availability. If you would like to add the pangolin walking experience to your stay with us, we suggest booking it in advance to make sure you don’t miss out. Enquire further with our Reservations Team when booking your Rhino Sands safari or book directly with the Zululand Conservation Trust here.

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