What in the world is a pangolin?


The world is currently facing a "Pangolin Crisis".

Pangolins are small animals covered in scales. Though sometimes confused with reptiles, they are mammals! Pangolins mostly live across Africa and Asia, typically residing in forests and grasslands.

The African white-bellied tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine has caused 97% reduction in the wild population. The drastic decline is affecting wild population demographics because larger, potentially older animals, are hunted and removed from the wild. But, the full extent of this change cannot be determined because there are no criteria to determine the age for African tree pangolin. Without the ability to determine the age for pangolin, we also cannot provide appropriate care for individuals that have been rescued from the wild or confiscated.

Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to develop guidelines to estimate pangolin age by using diagnostic tools routinely used in veterinary medicine. In this granted study, we propose new research to understand the growth and development of the African tree pangolin by using health data including radiographs (x-ray imaging) and laboratory diagnostics (blood work) combined with fecal hormone (thyroid function) and body size assessments. We will combine these methods to distinguish juvenile from the adult life stage and develop a guideline for age estimates for all pangolin of this species.

The overall goal is to develop diagnostic tools to characterize the African tree pangolin growth and development and to identify implications for species conservation and health assessments.

Animals can't ask for help. That's why we're here.

The Wild Animal Health Fund advocates for the injured, sick and dying animals all around the world. With your help, we can make a difference.