This programme aims to continue to rescue, rehabilitate and release pangolins from the illegal wildlife trade, while at the same time conduct research to learn more about these highly threatened animals.
Pangolins are considered the world’s most trafficked mammal due to the high number recovered from the illegal wildlife trade in both carcasses and body parts. They have also slipped through the cracks in terms of scientific research, with no accurate population estimates for the four African or Asian pangolin species.
Additionally, little is known about the use of these animals locally or internationally for traditional medicine or as a food delicacy. While the protection status of pangolin varies across the range countries, it is clear that laws need to be enforced in order to be effective.
Researcher: Lisa Hywood
Country: Harare, Zimbabwe
Partner Organisations: Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority; Zimbabwe Ministry of Environment and Social Welfare
Like many wild animals being traded, in traditional Chinese medicine, the body parts of pangolins, particularly the scales, are believed to have medicinal properties. As a result, African pangolins now face a threat from this consumptive market due to the increased trade ties between Africa and Asia.
While there is no large consumptive market for pangolin in Zimbabwe, it is now being targeted as a valuable illegal commodity with wildlife traffickers commanding very high prices. Zimbabwe currently has strong legislation to protect pangolins – a jail sentence of nine years in prison can be imposed.
Despite this, there is still an increasing trend of pangolin-related illegal trade taking place in the country and this project aims to establish why this is the case, while at the same time rescuing and rehabilitating animals caught up in this trade and learning more about them as a species.
1. Continue to rescue, rehabilitate and release pangolins confiscated through the illegal wildlife trade.
2. Implement care protocols and post-release monitoring protocols for the pangolin.
3. Achieve the highest level of protection for the pangolin to IUCN endangered status and from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I.
4. Grow research and the understanding of the species by building a database of pangolin sightings in the wild throughout Africa to establish distribution and population density.
5. Conduct awareness and education campaigns on the plight of pangolins as the world’s most trafficked mammal.
1. Rescue, rehabilitation and release of pangolins in Zimbabwe
An efficient system has been established whereby the programme is alerted to criminal cases involving pangolins through the relevant authorities, and remains on standby for logistical assistance. Once in the programme’s care, pangolins are given a health assessment, and if required, veterinary attention. Together with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authorities, a suitable release site is determined. Pangolins are then transferred to the release site, or if they do not meet the criteria for release, are retained to facilitate further rehabilitation.
2. Husbandry protocols
Based on its experiences, the programme is in the process of compiling a husbandry manual for the captive care of ground pangolins. In addition, the programme is working together with the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) for Pangolins to determine other circumstances and aspects to include in the manual. In the interim, the programme consults with other pangolin rescue facilities, sharing experiences and gathering information on other species found in Africa, such as white-bellied and black-bellied pangolins.
For the past 18 months, the programme has been working on a proposal to uplist the four African species of pangolin from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I as a means of mitigating the rapidly growing illegal trade of the species. The proposal will be presented to CITES at its CoP 17 in September 2016.
Current research encompasses the following ground pangolin research: the growth rate; artificial rearing and diet in captivity; behaviour and activities during copulation, gestation and parturition; and general behaviour observations.
A nationwide survey of pangolin sightings throughout Zimbabwe is underway. This is done by encouraging the public to report sightings, conducting surveys and incorporating pangolins as a species to target in scientifically conducted surveys.
Informative posters on the plight of the pangolin will be produced and distributed, along with radio interviews and the creation of additional visual media. Schools in rural communities will receive informative educational material on pangolins, and events such as World Pangolin Day will be used to promote knowledge of the species in urban environments.
REPORT ON FINAL RESULT OF PANGOLIN UPLISTING AT CITES COP17 (24th September – 5th October 2016)
Initially established as a wildlife rescue centre, the Tikki Hywood Foundation has also been working with ground pangolin for the past 20 years in Zimbabwe. In the last five years we have expanded our experience to include other African species of pangolin through collaboration with individuals and organisations in African Range States.
Through the Foundation’s work on rescue and rehabilitation of ground pangolins retrieved from illegal wildlife trade, we have come to realise that this species is being traded in much higher volumes than previously discovered. They are now officially recognised as the world’s most trafficked mammal, with estimates of one million pangolins being illegally harvested from the wild in the last decade.
Decimation at these volumes is completely unsustainable for any of the eight species of pangolin. Therefore a strong avenue of protection would be a complete ban on trade through CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
We are very pleased to report that the proposal to uplist all eight pangolin species to Appendix I was fully accepted.
The Tikki Hywood Foundation has been working and collaborating on this proposal since 2012. We would like to take the opportunity to thank Wilderness Wildlife Trust for assisting us in achieving this monumentous goal.
A word from Tikki Hywood Foundation Founder & CEO on the results at the CITES COP17;
CoP17 was a success for pangolin – in fact it was here that the CoP that noticed the pangolin. Sadly however for us to even be discussing a species at CoP means that we have indeed failed that species and not afforded them the necessary assistance to survival that is required. What it does however mean is that we in Africa will be given a little bit more time to get the necessary range states in order and develop the necessary plan to assist the pangolin. This was my first CoP and at the beginning of this journey I was rather sceptical in believing that lobbyists might indeed have a part to play in conservation. Having now completed the four years I can indeed say that lobbying does play a very important role in conservation and had it not been for tactful engagement and dialogue with the multiple range states in Africa I fear that we would not have won the final vote to uplist all African species.
For us at the Tikki Hywood Foundation this experience has afforded us an opportunity to not only understand the key players and as well as meeting them but also to see where the loop holes are and begin to address them.
In 2015 several prominent news articles came out (on CNN and BBC) stating estimates of hundreds of thousands animals traded illegally each year. In light of this, the next line of defence for the pangolin would be a CITES Appendix I listing, halting all legal trade and then providing a mechanism for illegal trade to be focused on.
The Tikki Hywood Foundation has been preparing a CITES uplisting proposal for the past two years. In consultation with several other prominent experts in the field of CITES procedures and other pangolin experts, there is now a complete document which can be adopted by a proposing country.
Our next step is to attend SC66, the 66th Meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES, being held in Geneva, Switzerland between 11 and 15 January 2016. Lisa Hywood is already registered as an observer for this event. This will provide a platform to further lobby for the uplisting and engage Member states who would be prepared to submit the proposal and then support it.
The Trust has partly funded the projects efforts in uplisting this species.