Pretoria, South Africa
Pretoria, South Africa

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Boakye M.K.,Tshwane University of Technology | Pietersen D.W.,African Pangolin Working Group | Kotze A.,National Zoological Gardens of South Africa | Kotze A.,University of the Free State | And 4 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Traditional medicine has been practised in Ghana for centuries with the majority of Ghanaians still patronising the services of traditional healers. Throughout Africa a large number of people use pangolins as a source of traditional medicine, however, there is a dearth of information on the use of animals in folk medicine in Ghana, in particular the use of pangolins. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalent use of pangolins and the level of knowledge of pangolin use among traditional healers in Ghana for the treatment of human ailments. Data was gathered from 48 traditional healers using semi-structured interviews on the traditional medicinal use of pangolin body parts in the Kumasi metropolis of Ghana. The cultural importance index, relative frequency of citation, informant agreement ratio and use agreement values were calculated to ascertain the most culturally important pangolin body part as well as the level of knowledge dissemination among traditional healers with regards pangolin body parts. Our study revealed that 13 body parts of pangolins are used to treat various medicinal ailments. Pangolin scales and bones were the most prevalent prescribed body parts and indicated the highest cultural significance among traditional healing practices primarily for the treatment of spiritual protection, rheumatism, financial rituals and convulsions. Despite being classified under Schedule 1 of Ghana's Wildlife Conservation Act of 1971 (LI 685), that prohibits anyone from hunting or being in possession of a pangolin, our results indicated that the use of pangolins for traditional medicinal purposes is widespread among traditional healers in Ghana. A study on the population status and ecology of the three species of African pangolins occurring in Ghana is urgently required in order to determine the impact this harvest for traditional medical purposes has on their respective populations as current levels appear to be unmonitored and unsustainable. © 2015 Boakye et al.

Boakye M.K.,Tshwane University of Technology | Kotze A.,African Pangolin Working Group | Kotze A.,University of the Free State | Dalton D.L.,National Zoological Gardens of South Africa | And 2 more authors.
Human Ecology | Year: 2016

Pangolins (Pholidota: Manidae) are frequently hunted as a source of bushmeat in Ghana. However, no information exists with regards to the level of trade of pangolins outside of major bushmeat market surveys in Ghana. The aim of this study was to determine the level of trade among other stakeholders in the bushmeat commodity chain for pangolins in Ghana. Data were collected from 153 stakeholders using semi-structured interviews and direct observation between September 2013 and January 2014. A total of 341 pangolins were recorded to have been traded in this study period. The white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) represented 82 % and the black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) 18 % of the observed pangolins traded by the stakeholders. Chopbar operators accounted for the highest retailer sales to consumers. The number of pangolins traded was negatively correlated to the distance between settlements and protected forest regions. The levels of pangolin trade were previously underestimated in Ghana as the pangolin bushmeat commodity chain does not form the supply chain to the major bushmeat markets where most surveys were undertaken. The Wildlife Conservation Act of 1971 (LI 685) that prohibits the hunting of pangolins can be regarded as ineffective and not serving as a deterrent to poaching. © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media New York

Pietersen D.W.,University of Pretoria | Pietersen D.W.,African Pangolin Working Group | McKechnie A.E.,University of Pretoria | Jansen R.,Tshwane University of Technology | Jansen R.,African Pangolin Working Group
African Zoology | Year: 2014

All previous behavioural studies of Temminck's ground pangolins (Smutsia temminckii) have focused on populations in mesic regions. We examined home range size, activity periods, habitat selectivity and refuge site selection of 13 individuals over three years in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, near the western edge of the species' range. Kernel home ranges of adults averaged 6.5 ± 5.9 km2, while juveniles had average home ranges of 6.1 ± 4.0 km2. Reliable prediction of 95% of the Kernel home range required 88 ± 67.7 tracking days. No significant habitat selectivity was observed. Earthen burrows were the most frequently used refuge type. The time at which activity commenced varied seasonally as well as among individuals, with an increase in diurnal activity during winter. Young pangolins also displayed more diurnal activity compared to adults. Individuals spent 5.7 ± 2.0 hours per 24-hour cycle outside of refuges, with no significant seasonal variation. Juvenile dispersal peaked during mid-summer, with individuals travelling up to 49 km from their natal areas. We estimate a breeding density of 0.16 individuals/km2 and a total density of 0.31 individuals/km2 for our study area. Our data suggest that activity patterns, movements and refuge selection is similar across the species' southern African range, but that densities may be higher in the Kalahari compared to populations in more mesic eastern areas.

Pietersen D.W.,University of Pretoria | Pietersen D.W.,African Pangolin Working Group | McKechnie A.E.,University of Pretoria | Jansen R.,Tshwane University of Technology | Jansen R.,African Pangolin Working Group
South African Journal of Wildlife Research | Year: 2014

Throughout its range, Temminck's ground pangolin, Smutsia temminckii, is becoming increasingly threatened, predominantly as a result of anthropogenic pressures. This species is currently listed as Vulnerable in South Africa and Least Concern globally, although many assessment criteria are data deficient and thus hamper an accurate assessment of its actual status. Current knowledge of the threats faced by Temminck's ground pangolin largely stem from a handful of ecological studies and ad hoc observations. Here we synthesize data on the known threats faced by this species in southern Africa and highlight a number of new threats not previously recognized. The main threats faced by this species include electrocution on electrified fences, the traditional medicine (muthi ) trade, habitat loss, road mortalities, capture in gin traps, and potentially poisoning. Electrocutions arguably pose the greatest threat and mortality rates may be as high as one individual per 11 km of electrified fence per year. However, the magnitude of the threat posed by the muthi trade has not yet been quantified. Most southern African countries have adequate legislation protecting this species, although implementation is often lacking and in some instances the imposed penalties are unlikely to be a deterrent. We propose mitigating actions for many of the identified threats, although further research into the efficacy of these actions, and the development of additional mitigating procedures, is required.

Pietersen D.W.,University of Pretoria | Pietersen D.W.,African Pangolin Working Group | Symes C.T.,University of Witwatersrand | Woodborne S.,University of Pretoria | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Zoology | Year: 2016

The diet of Temminck's ground pangolin Smutsia temminckii (hereafter, pangolin) has thus far been studied only in mesic savannahs. We provide arid-zone dietary data for this species based on direct observations, and compare these to available prey species assemblages. We also report stable carbon and nitrogen isotope enrichment values for liver and scales obtained from pangolin carcasses compared to the diet. Pangolins were recorded consuming four ant (Anoplolepis steingroeveri, Camponotus fulvopilosus, two Crematogaster spp.) and one termite (Trinervitermes trinervoides) species, which represent 7.5 and 25% of the available ant and termite species respectively. The stable isotope data corroborate the direct observations and confirm that pangolins display a high degree of prey selectivity, however stable isotopes alone were not able to infer the diet of pangolins as a number of non-prey species had similar isotopic values to prey species. Direct observations suggest that purported non-prey species are not consumed, possibly because they have chemical or mechanical defenses or gallery structures that make them unsuitable as prey. Liver was enriched by 3.8 ± 1.2‰ (mean ± SD) and 2.5 ± 1.4‰ for δ15N and δ13C respectively, relative to the mean δ15N and δ13C values of the prey species, and scales were enriched by 2.9 ± 1.0‰ and 5.3 ± 1.8‰ respectively. We observed no seasonal variation or age or sex-related differences in diet, either from direct observations or isotope data. These results support previous findings that pangolins have further specialized within an already unusual mammalian dietary niche. © 2016 The Zoological Society of London.

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