The Endangered Pangolin and Johannesburg Wildlife Vet’s Brave Fight for Their Existence

The Endangered Pangolin and Johannesburg Wildlife Vet’s Brave Fight for Their Existence

Around the corner from one of the fastest growing, densest living areas in Sandton, you will find a dedicated group of wildlife enthusiasts at the Johannesburg Wildlife Vet. Spending their days saving and caring for wild creatures such as the pangolin from all over South Africa.

Seeing this very rare and secretive alien-like creature in real life for the very first time is etched into my mind as if it were a special date with a long-lost love. The pangolin looks like a reptile but is actually a mammal with scales, armoured like an ancient soldier to protect itself, which is, sadly, no deterrent for the human onslaught the species endures.
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Hunted for their scales and meat, these little creatures are at risk of going extinct before most people even know they exist. About 50% of the friends I shared my encounter with did not know the pangolin by name. The pangolin is listed as vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered depending on the species and subspecies.

Pangolin's Specialised Treatment

Dr Karin Lourens is one of only two vets allowed to treat pangolins in South Africa. It was a truly rare occasion that ConservationMag was able to witness a pangolin in real life. Due to the threat to these little creatures by poachers, they are kept in secure locations away from the public.

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The Brave Fight for Existence

The fight against pangolin poachers is in full force. Dr Lourens and other experts are often called on to testify in court because not even specialised prosecutors know much about these little creatures. Sting operations and other methods are used to catch poachers, who are saddled with stiff sentences. To date, the harshest sentence recorded for a pangolin offence is a seven-year jail term.

The pangolin is a nocturnal animal, but this little guy is still a baby, so he is willing to eat during the day. Pangolins do not feed in captivity, so volunteers walk with him for four hours at a time as he looks for ants and termite on his own. Like all the animals at the Johannesburg Wildlife Vet, once he is ready for release, he will go through a soft release program to reintroduce him to the wild.

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Johannesburg Wildlife Vet

Pangolins are not the only creatures treated at this veterinary clinic. Animals come to Johannesburg Wildlife Vet from as far as Cape Town, flown in by aeroplane to get the specialised treatment. The centre is the brainchild of Dr Lourens and Ms Nicci Wright, who saw the need to have a veterinary clinic and hospital to treat and care for these creatures. We took a little tour to meet some of the temporary residents being treated at the moment.

How can you make a difference?

Johannesburg Wildlife Vet is fully run on donations, and your donation will be highly appreciated. Just scan the SnapScan below to donate or click here for other donation options.

This Southern African python was confiscated from a Sangoma and is currently busy shedding its skin. The Southern African python is protected in its own right due to the threat of poaching for the pet trade.

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This six-month-old blue crane came in with a broken leg. After a serious operation, he received pins to repair the injury. The pins cause a serious limp, but Dr Lourens is very confident he will fully recover with no limp and they will reintroduce him to the wild. Receiving medical care certainly does not affect his personality—he loves showing off his wings and poses like a ramp model.

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This grey duiker is four months old. Such a happy resident, he’s not even in a cage. The cage in the background is only the outside of a fence. He happily spends his days under the fresh leaves provided to him, nibbling away.

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There were other residents including a spotted eagle owl, a brown snake eagle, and a baby serval, which I was not allowed to view because it was in treatment.

Johannesburg Wildlife Vet
Our Wildlife NPC is a first of its kind. It funds a wildlife veterinary hospital that exclusively treats indigenous wildlife, free of charge.

Here is How you can help

The majority of the support for this non-profit comes from the public—people like you and me. If you can assist Johannesburg Wildlife Vet, it would truly be an amazing contribution to an exceptional cause.

Adriaan Buys
Adriaan BuysConservationMag
Founder of ConservationMag, Studying expansive conservation management strategy in a world of short term human needs. Researcher, Lecturer, PhD Student
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