Durban - After disappearing for more than 40 years, the first Temminck’s ground pangolin pup has been born in the wild at the Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.
The birth of the pangolin pup - first noted on Christmas Eve - has elicited an outpouring of joy by pangolin conservationists across the country especially as the mother pangolin, named Pafuri was saved from the illegal wildlife trade.
Pafuri’s retrieval from the murky, multi-million rand illegal wildlife trade was due to the work being carried out by the African Pangolin Working Group who work closely with the South African Police in eradicating the trade, by setting up sting operations and other anti-poaching methods to bust those dealing in pangolins.
In the last year alone there were 60 tons of pangolin scales confiscated from poachers leaving the African continent alone - the equivalent of 120 pangolins.
The big questions for conservationists were what to do with pangolins after they save from the clutches of the poachers?
The African Pangolin Working Group launched a project to release the pangolins into the wild and reintroduce them in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Phinda Private Game Reserve in KZN was one of the reserves in the province chosen for the project.
According to the Phinda Private Game Reserve the last time a pangolin was spotted in the reserve was in 1980 and they were very excited to be part of the programme to re-introduce them into the province.
Pafuri’s pregnancy was discovered by vets at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital shortly after she was retrieved from poachers.
It was decided that she was to part of the batch of pangolins that would be re-introduced in KZN.
However, questions remained if she would be able to carry full term.
When she did, less than a week ago it was hailed as success for pangolin conservation.
“We are overjoyed with the birth of this pangolin pup,” the African Pangolin Working Group said on its Facebook page.
“We almost can't believe it ourselves!” said Phinda Private Game Reserve on their Facebook page.
“A good indicator on the success of this groundbreaking project was always going to be when (or if) the reintroduced pangolins would reproduce! And here, in the year of 2020 with all its challenges, we have our first pango pup born in KwaZulu-Natal for many decades! An early Festive Season cheer for our Phinda conservation team and project partners for sure! Together we're leaving our world a better place,” it said.
Charlie de Vos, Ecological Monitor at Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve Temminck’s ground pangolin, the only scaly mammal is listed as vulnerable and was last spotted at their reserve more than 40 years ago.
De Vos said the Phinda Private Game Reserve was chosen to rehome the pangolins because of their success with other species such as the Cheetah and Black Rhino and the fact that it has a wide variety of habitats on the reserve.
Last June, the Phinda Private Game Reserve received its first individuals of pangolins which were released into the reserve in an effort to get a viable population of the species back into KwaZulu-Natal.
All of the pangolins introduced into the wild at the reserve have VHF or satellite tags clipped on them that allow the conservationists to track and monitor them.
This provides crucial data to conservationists as the pangolins movements, the times they active and the territory they inhabit so that they can know how many more pangolins can be introduced into a specific area at any given time.
De Vos said the pangolins are threatened species as they are consumed as bush meat in Africa and in Asia they are considered a delicacy with a bowl of pangolin soup fetching up to US$2500 (R36 542).