Upbefore dawn, racing through the rugged bush accompanied only by the sounds of whooping hyenas and the intermittent beeps of the GPS tracker. Armageddon induced engine failure and, finally, the sighting that makes it all worth it. We’re taking you to Northern Namibia for 48 hours with Pangolin Conservationist, Kelsey Prediger, Founder and Director of our new project partners, Pangolin Conservation and Research Foundation (PCRF).
Entirely committed to protecting these elusive creatures from extinction, Prediger is the go-to person for everything pangolin. Despite being one of the world’s most trafficked mammal (more than elephants, rhinos and tigers combined) little is actually known of the pangolin, a mystery Prediger is getting one step closer to solving. By building data collection into the daily protection of pangolins, we’re supporting our partners to reduce the mortality rate of rescued pangolins. Known to be solitary and sensitive creatures, when intercepted from the wildlife trade, pangolin death rates is extraordinarily high. Every element of PCRF’s research informs and evolves ongoing pangolin conservation, meaning we’re one step closer to bringing pangolins back from the brink of extinction.
When tackling such a huge mission, we wanted to share with you what a day in the life of a Pangolin Conservationist entails. We managed to catch up with Kelsey in between field operations to find out how her last 48 looked.
Woke up and checked tagged pangolins movement. We quickly realised we had an emergency on our hands, a trafficked released pangolin was within 1 km of a major highway. If he left the protected area, he would likely be re-poached or hit by a car. Our field trip was also due to set off, so this meant we had to quickly prepare for seven days of camping and begin a five hour drive to locate the pangolin.
By midnight, we’d already spent three and half hours scanning for the animal but hadn’t had any luck receiving an updated GPS point. This meant we has no option but to sit and wait to see if the pangolin would appear from a burrow in the vicinity of it’s last known location.
We set the GPS to 30-minute fixes meaning we’d be notified of any movement and decided it was a good opportunity to head to an old chalet we’d been offered to use – a very welcomed spot for our one hour of sleep.
Thankfully the animal began moving and so we set out to follow the 30-minute fixes. As we began tracking in darkness, we could hear the whooping of hyena’s nearby.
Strong GPS signal received meaning we could begin tracking the pangolin in the wild bush.
After hours of trekking and tracking through thick bush, we managed to catch up with the pangolin on its way back to the burrow, just in time. We replaced the transmitters and checked his weight. His movement since release had been worrisome since he hasn’t settled down, however we were excited to see he’d gained nearly 2kg. He had suddenly made a sharp turn back into the protected area so we decided not to move him – very likely the noise from the road turned him back. A big relief.
As we finished tagging the pangolin, the glow of sunrise was peaking over the horizon and we made it back to the car in time to have some (still warm) coffee! We reflected on a successful mission with the Anti-Poaching Unit and trained them to track using the Wildlife Radio Telemetry.
The “day” (26 hours in) wasn’t over for us yet, we went back to the chalet, grabbed showers and re-packed. It was time to head to the next site. The ranger team had located a missing animal with a tag failure at our main resident project site in the Nyae Nyae conservancy. After showers and more coffee, we prepped the car for another long drive, filling our water tanks and cleaning the dragonfly armageddon off the windscreen.
We were on the road but within the first hour the engine began to overheat. After pulling over we realised the dragonfly armageddon had also blocked the radiator, so we cleaned that out the best we could and carried on.
It was a long seven hours on the road and we arrived just before sunset to setup camp for the night. The next day wasn’t any quieter…
Wakeup call, and we begin another day in the bush.
Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals on the planet. The situation is urgent. We are at risk of driving this shy creature to extinction before we’ve even had a chance to fully understand it. Working together with our project partners, we are helping to protect the endangered Temminck’s pangolin across Southern Africa. Our mission here is clear, prevent the torment and torture of the pangolin in the illegal wildlife trade – and in doing so, stop the pangolin from being driven to extinction.
Saved from extinction or trafficked to oblivion, you have the autonomy to decide. Thank you in advance for supporting this crucial work.