With each project, Wild&Free supports specific endangered species that are endemic to the country where the rehabilitation centre is located. Education is key to understand these misunderstood animals and the threats they face, resulting in the decrease of their population in the wild

Pangolins

Pangolins are a group of mammals comprising eight species spread out over Africa and Asia. The Sunda, Chinese, Philippine and Indian pangolins inhabit Asia and the white-bellied, black-bellied, ground and cape pangolins are found in Africa. All are majorly threatened by poaching for their use in both food consumption and traditional medicine. They have been given the title of «  the most trafficked mammal in the world ».

Pangolins have many unique traits that make them easily recognisable. These include their scaly surface, their long snout and tongue. Their incredibly long tongues are attached all the way down to their chest cavity. They have have no teeth or external hearing, but an incredible sense of smell. Their legs are strong with claws that help them dig through termite mounds.

Pangolins are a very shy, solitary and generally nocturnal species. Well-known for their eating techniques, their long tongue allows them to reach down into ant and termite mounds. The lack of teeth is compensated by the grinding of stones with the food in their stomachs to help with digestion. Their main defense technique is to roll up into a ball which protects their soft underparts that aren't covered in scales. They also dig burrows, used for sleeping and termite hunting.

Due to their exclusive insect diet, pangolins hold an important ecological role as pest control such as regulating termite populations. One adult can consume over 70 million insects annually.

Four of the eight species are protected by centres supported by Wild & Free and detailed below.

African pangolins

 

There are 4 sub species of African pangolins and two are supported by Wild&Free so far.

Name: White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), Black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla)

IUCN status: White-bellied : Endangered, Black-bellied : Vulnerable

Stats: Decreasing

Where they are found

White-bellied: Angola; Benin; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo;Democratic Republic of Congo; Ivory Coast; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Liberia; Nigeria; Rwanda; Sierra Leone; South Sudan; Tanzania, Togo; Uganda; Zambia

 

- Black-bellied: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon; Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone

 

The centre we support them and where it is located: Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary (LiWiSa), Liberia

 

Short physical description :

These two species comprise the « small-bodied » African pangolins, and share characteristics that separate them from their other African relatives. They have very small forelimb claws, larger eyes, irregular arrangement of scales, the presence of tails pads used for climbing, a prehensile tail, and the presence of hair on the forelimbs, as opposed to scales.

The white-bellied species has the shortest tail and has three points on each scale from which their latin name is derived tricuspis.

Even though the black-bellies have the longest tail of all eight species reaching a length around 60–70 cm, they are the smallest pangolin species overall. They have 9-13 rows of leaf-shaped scales.The body can reach 30 - 40 cm in length and weigh 2- 2.5 kg.

Short behavioural description:

The white-bellies and black-bellies are the more arboreal species of African pangolins. They live in hollow trees unlike ground-dwellers that dig tunnels underground. White-bellies use their prehensile tail to hang from tree branches and rip the bark to gain access to insects. They give birth to one young after 150 days of gestation.


The black-bellied pangolin are unique in the fact that they are active during the day, whereas all other species are nocturnal. This is suggested as a method to avoid food competition with the white-bellied pangolin. It is almost exclusively arboreal and stays away from the forest edge. They are also the only pangolin species to feed primarily on ants instead of termites as their main food source.

 

Why they are important to protect/ role in ecosystem:

The white-bellied pangolin is the most widespread species across Africa and is intensively exploited for bushmeat. The species declined by an estimated 25% between 1993 and 2008 and is still continued to be sold on the bushmeat markets today. It is believed to be close to extension in Rwanda.

In Gabon, pangolins are the more sought after species for meat, including the black-bellies and white-bellies.

Because the Asian pangolin populations are so drastically declining but the demand is still high for Chinese medicine, African pangolins are now being shipped to Asian markets to compensate.

Asian pangolins

 

There are 4 sub species of Asian pangolins and two are supported by Wild&Free so far.

Name: Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica), Chinese Pangolins (Manis pentadactyla)

IUCN status: Both Critically Endangered

Stats: Decreasing

Where they are found

Sunda pangolins: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

 

- Chinese  pangolins:  Bangladesh , Bhutan,  China,  Hong Kong,  India,  Laos,  Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.

 

The centre we support them and where it is located: Save Vietnam's wildlife in Cuc Phuong, Vietnam

 

Short physical description :

The Sunda pangolin has a body length between 40–65 cm and tail length measuring 35–56 cm.It can weigh up to 10 kg. They differ from their cousin, the Chinese pangolin, by having less rows of scales and shorter forelimbs, a longer tail and lighter colouring. 

A Chinese pangolin weighs from 2 to 7 kg. It has 18 rows of overlapping scales accompanied by hair.
The Asian pangolins differ from the African species by the having bristles which emerge from between the scales.

Short behavioural description:

Whilst the geographical range of the Sunda and Chinese pangolins overlaps, the Sunda species leads more of an arboreal lifestyle and is a lot more agile with its semi-prehensile tail in the trees.

 

Chinese pangolins sleep in burrows and those in temperate regions will spend the entire winter months deep underground. The winter burrows are strategically dug near termite nests.

Unlike their African relatives, these Asian species are more likely to give birth to multiple offspring at once. The female carries her baby on her back and when threatened, will curl herself over the baby to protect it from danger.

 

Why they are important to protect / role in ecosystem:

Both species have declined tremendously since the beginning of the commercial trade in the 1990s. The Sunda pangolin is the most trafficked species in Asia, and is extremely scarce in its northern range. Habitat loss is an indirect cause of population decline, as areas being opened up for agricultural purposes makes the animals more exposed to hunters. Pangolins, the Sunda in particular, have weak immune systems and are likely to pick up intestinal parasites when trafficked. They are extremely hard to maintain in captivity, especially due to their diet. This means that very few captive-breeding programmes for the conservation of pangolins exist and they are not a guaranteed solution. Instead, the emphasis must be put on protecting the current wild population.

Slow Loris

Name: Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang)

IUCN status: Vulnerable, last assessed in 2008

Stats: Decreasing

Where they are found

Sumatran islands of Indonesia, the Malaysian peninsula, the south peninsula of Thailand and in Singapore.

 

The centre we support them and where it is located: Indonesian Species Conservation Programme (ISCP) in North Sumatra, Indonesia

 

Short physical description :

The slow loris is a strepsirrhini primate, a suborder that includes lemuriens and galagos, characterised by their wet-nose and improved night vision. The Sunda slow loris measures 27-38 cm long and varies between 600-700 g. They have distinctly large eyes surrounded by dark rings and their reddish coat differentiates them from the Bengal slow loris with whom they share their habitat. Their toothcomb teeth structure is primarily used for grooming, but unlike other strepsirrhini primates, the Sunda slow loris also uses this trait to extract gum when foraging.

Short behavioural description:

Sunda slow lorises are arboreal and nocturnal primates. Typically solitary animals, spatial groups can be formed of one male, one female and a few young. They have a unique locomotary trait among primates, similar to crawling with three limbs on the tree surface at any one time. They display contact and aggression calls. Females also vocalise a call out of human range to attract males. They are cryptic species that rely on camouflage to hide from predators but also secrete a toxic gland that they spread across their body and use this toxic-covered fur to warn off predators. Females generally give birth to one young per litter.

 

Why they are important to protect / role in ecosystem:

Like many stepsirrhinis, these small primates are major victims to the exotic pet trade and sold throughout Asia. They experience harsh cruelty such as the removal of their teeth to avoid injuring their new « owner ». They are also sought out for their fur, eyes and meat which are believed to cure various diseases. The wild populations also succumb to increased habitat loss and fragmentation, which are increasingly dangerous for these obligate arboreal animals.

'Wild & Free - Rehabilitation and Release' - UK registered charity N°1158750

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www.wildnfree.org

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