PANGOLINS: Creating awareness, driving education, taking action

World Pangolin Day: Shining the spotlight on a species under threat

Pangolins, classified as vulnerable to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, are fascinating and elusive creatures with an ancient lineage dating back  80 million years. Cloaked in protective keratin scales they present a distinctive and captivating appearance.


Southern Africa is home to the Temminck’s ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii). Despite their fascinating existence, pangolins face imminent threats, primarily from illegal wildlife trade fuelled by the demand for their scales and meat.  Additionally, mortalities from electrocution on rangeland electrified fencing, and habitat loss, compound the risks.


Pangolins play a vital ecological role by controlling insect population,  primarily feeding on ants and termites. WESSA  is dedicated to contributing to conservation efforts in southern Africa. Our mission involves raising awareness through education, combating poaching and trafficking, reducing human-wildlife conflict, and enhancing habitat preservation.

What is a pangolin?

Pangolins, often referred to as “scaly anteaters” are mammals known for their protective armour of overlapping scales made of keratin. Despite their reptile-like appearance, they are warm-blooded and give birth to live young. With their long, sticky tongues and powerful claws, pangolins are expert insectivores, feasting primarily on ants and termites.

Ancient legacy

These ancient creatures  have wandered the Earth for over 80 million years, embodying a living testament to the planet’s rich history. Pangolins have adapted to various ecosystems across Africa and Asia, playing a vital role in maintaining ecological balance.

The challenges they face

Despite their resilience, pangolins face unprecedented challenges. They are the most trafficked mammals globally, hunted for their scales which are believed to have healing properties in traditional medicine, and their meat, considered a delicacy in some regions.


Electrified rangeland fences are fatal to pangolins as they curl up over the bottom strand in defence which leads to them being electrocuted. Like many other species, pangolins are increasingly at risk as a result of the loss of their natural habitats. WESSA is committed to raising awareness about these threats, advocating for changes to mitigate them, and acting for the wellbeing and survival of this iconic mammal.

Endangered status

Pangolins are currently listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. This designation reflects the severity of the challenges these unique mammals are confronting.




Your donation goes directly towards the WESSA Pangolin Fund which supports awareness and education, rehabilitation to wild release, and reducing human-wildlife conflict.



Eight pangolin species exist – four in Africa, four in Asia.
Temminck’s are most common in South and Southern Africa.
Temminck’s are also called Cape pangolins or ground pangolins
Pangolins defend themselves by rolling into a compact ball.
The gestation period for Temminck’s ground pangolin is approximately around four-and-a-half months.
Temminck’s ground pangolins give birth to a single offspring, referred to as a pangopup [much remains unknown about mating and birthing processes of pangolins].
Pangopup scales are initially soft at birth and are nurtured on mother’s milk for approximately the first four months.
Pangopups may venture out of the nest as early as six months, but they often remain there for up to two years until reaching sexual maturity.
The precise lifespan of pangolins in their natural habitat remains uncertain, with the longest recorded lifespan reaching around 20 years.
Pangolins achieve their fastest running speed when moving on their two hind legs and using their tails for support.
Each year, a pangolin consumes more than 70 000 000 ants and termites.


Partnerships across organisations dedicated to pangolin conservation is central to the WESSA approach.


By collaborating with Pangolin.Africa, an NGO renowned for its commitment to pangolin conservation, WESSA aims to enhance awareness and education while jointly researching and implementing pangolin-friendly fence designs to curb mortalities on electric rangeland fences.


We have also joined forces with the Kalahari Wildlife Project, a specialist rescue and rehabilitation organisation focused on Kalahari species, including pangolins. Through this partnership, WESSA aligns closely with the objectives of the Kalahari Wildlife Project, striving to sustain and improve pangolin populations in the Northern Cape.


These partnerships represent WESSA’s commitment to collaborative conservation efforts and signify significant strides towards the protection of pangolins and their habitats.

Pangolin Africa logo
Kalahari Wildlife Project logo

Your support can help the conservation of pangolins


Contact: Mike Denison

Pangolin Programme Manager


C:+27 82 269 6421