Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal worldwide yet remain one of the most under-researched species. Trafficking within Africa has been on the rise. In Namibia there have been 491 pangolins confiscated (152 live and 339 carcasses or skins) and 640 perpetrators arrested over the last seven years.
The Nyae Nyae Conservancy is one of the few conservancies in Namibia with pangolin strongholds. This is thanks to the indigenous Ju/’hoansi people who believe that pangolins call the rains and therefore do not wish to harm them. Job opportunities and sustainable livelihoods in the area are very limited. True to their culture, the Ju/’hoansi are mainly hunter-gatherers living from the land but, with farming activities encroaching, the land available to them is limited. Therefore, the employment of pangolin rangers across the communities is a great opportunity to benefit the people as well as the conservation of the species.
The Nyae Nyae Pangolin Project (NNPP) started in 2020 with an idea of supporting communities to save a species through the employment of pangolin rangers and applied research. At a San village with makeshift huts covered by blankets and plastic I met a man in tattered clothing who said he was looking for work and could find pangolins for the project and help protect them. It is actually an amusing story because I later found out that he was in fact employed at that time, but this was the seed that planted the idea to assist these communities. The first pangolins were tagged in 2021 which led to community engagement and the employment of pangolin rangers.
PCRF employs eleven pangolin rangers in five villages on full or part-time salaries and helps the communities with rations and clothing. We support additional villages by purchasing their artisan crafts including hand-made jewelry and carved wooden animals.
To date the project has identified many resident pangolins (we cannot share numbers for security reasons) in the Nyae Nyae conservancy. Currently, these individuals are monitored by the pangolin rangers, camera traps and transmitters. Four individuals have been tagged with GPS/SAT transmitters, which represent the first for their species in an open communal conservancy system and semi-wetland ecosystem. They are also the first individuals tagged in this type of vegetation which shows varied prey preference. The transmitters not only collect data but protect the species from poaching. Since movements are monitored, any interference will be investigated. The spatial movements of a male pangolin with the tag NN02 were collected from January 2022 until September 2022. His home range is the largest recorded for a free-roaming resident pangolin. Scorpio, or Tsqusi in San, (NN01) has a home range comparable to that of other female pangolins in Namibia.
Further protect and understand the pangolin species through monitoring and research
Provide sustainable livelihoods for the communities through the employment of rangers and helping with rations for the villages
Raise awareness and educate the communities on the importance of the species
Generate further income through visitors to our project
Support local artisans through the sale of pangolin inspired crafts around the world
Establish the first research centre for pangolins and partner with international academic institutions supporting local students
Develop an education centre for local children and tourists on all aspects of the area, with a special focus on pangolins
Raise awareness and pride for pangolins through community outreach and talks
Conduct long term research to further understand the ecology and survival of pangolins
Communities benefit through income generation by protecting pangolins.
Data contributes to our understanding of pangolin ecology and helps develop guidelines and resources. Further awareness is raised for preserving the species.
Local students are supported through internship and field-work opportunities.