Back From Extinction: Returning Threatened Pangolins to the Wild
By Alexander Richard Braczkowski, Christopher O'Bryan, Duan Biggs, and Raymond Jansen
Pangolins are also one of the world's most threatened species but new efforts are underway to reintroduce pangolins to parts of Africa where the animal has been extinct for decades.
The reintroduction of pangolins has not been easy. But it's vital to prevent this shy, mysterious creature from being lost forever.
A Cute But Threatened Species
Pangolins are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales, which they use to protect themselves from predators. They can also curl up into a tight ball.
They eat mainly ants, termites and larvae which they pick up with their sticky tongue. They can grow up to 1m in length from nose to tail and are sometimes referred to as scaly anteaters.
There is further evidence of the illegal trade in pangolin species openly on social media platforms such as Facebook.
The intense global trafficking of the species means the entire order (Pholidota) is threatened with extinction. For example, the Temminck's pangolins (Smutsia temminckii) went extinct in South Africa's KwaZulu Natal Province three decades ago.
Reintroduction of an Extinct Species
Each year in South Africa the African Pangolin Working Group (APWG) retrieves between 20 and 40 pangolins through intelligence operations with security forces.
These pangolins are often-traumatised and injured and are admitted to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital for extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation before they can be considered for release.
In 2019, seven rescued Temminck's pangolins were reintroduced into South Africa's Phinda Private Game Reserve in the KwaZulu Natal Province.
Nine months on, five have survived. This reintroduction is a world first for a region that last saw a viable population of this species in the 1980s.
During the release, every individual pangolin followed a strict regime. They needed to become familiar with their new surroundings and be able to forage efficiently.
Pangolins released immediately following medical treatment had a low level of survival for various reasons, including inability to adapt to their release sites.
A ‘Soft Release’ in to the Wild
The process on Phinda game reserve involved a more gentle ease into re-wilding a population in a region that had not seen pangolins for many decades.
The soft release had two phases:
- a pre-release observational period
- an intensive monitoring period post release employing GPS satellite as well as VHF tracking tags.
The pre-release period lasted between two to three weeks and were characterised by daily walks (three to five hours) of individuals on the reserves. These walks were critical for acclimatising individuals to the local habitat, its sounds, smells and possible threats. It also helped them source suitable and sufficient ant and termite species for food.
Following that, the post release period of two to three months involved locating released pangolins daily at first, and then twice per week where they were weighed, a rapid health assessment was made and habitat features such as burrows and refuges monitored.
Phinda reserve manager Simon Naylor said:
A key component of the post release period was whether individuals gained or maintained their weight.
The way the animals move after release also reveals important clues to whether they will stay in an area; if they feed, roll in dung, enter burrows. Much of this behaviour indicates site fidelity and habitat acceptance.
Following nine months of monitoring and tracking, five of the seven survived in the region. One died of illness while the other was killed by a Nile crocodile.
Why Pangolin Reintroduction is Important
We know so little about this group of mammals that are vastly understudied and hold many secrets yet to be discovered by science but are on the verge of collapse.
The South African and Phinda story is one of hope for the Temminck's pangolin where they once again roam the savanna hills and plains of Zululand.
The process of relocating these trade animals back into the wild has taken many turns, failures and tribulations but, the recipe of the "soft release" is working.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>