You think pangolins greatest threat is the poaching? not everywhere, what is worse?

Pangolins are bizarre animals!

A wild pangolin out during the day, a rare site indeed Credit David Brossard

How many of you knew about a pangolin? How many of you knew about a pangolin before say 5 years ago when their poaching became big news.

Generally the reason that they are little known about, is that they are secretive, and one of the most strictly nocturnal animals in the bush.

Despite this, seizures of tonnes of pangolin scales are regularly made on the way to Vietnam or China (and other similar parts of Asia). To be clear, in pretty much all of these countries the authorities are making lots of effort to stamp out this trade.

So this is why it is so horrifying to hear that poaching is not the primary human cause of death.

Electric fences!

Now it should be noted, that there is a wide range of predators in the African bush. We all know about lions and leopards, and even cheetah.

What about the smaller species?

The caracal, and serval are both cats that are incredible jumpers, and as such usual fences will not cause them a problem as they can jump over. Black backed jackals? Well these canines, are essentially the equivalent of the northern hemispheres red fox. Certainly, it is true that these animals might be a threat, but they are too savvy to be blocked by a fence, and anyway, live happily both sides of the fence as it is.

Electric fences are used in South Africa far more than other countries in Southern Africa: South Africa has about 6,000,000km of fencing, while Botswana has 3000km and Namibia 1100km.

So what can be done?

Well Pangolins are not a tall animal, but tend to travel on their hind legs. Raising the lowest strand of this fence from 20cm to 30cm would likely eliminate these deaths.

Why are they specifically at risk? Very sadly, by walking on their hind legs they expose their belly, when on the move. They struggle to see the strands of the wire, so the first thing that they know is it touches their sensitive underside. What is worse, Pangolins roll up into a ball when scared, but in this case this does not help, as this will leave the pangolin hanging from the wire. As the shocks keep coming the pangolin stays, and often starves or dies of thirst.

African forest elephants are now considered critically endangered, and African savannah elephants endangered, are the Asiatic elephants safe? And are we killing one of the few hopes humanity has? A guide to what remains

The African savannah elephant has declined by 60% over the last 50 years, and the African forest elephant has declined by 86% over the last 31 years.

So how close are these species to disappearing? There are currently 415,000african elephants in the wild, spread across 23 countries.

Unfortunately, their situation is highly different on different parts of the continent. Botswana still supports 130,000 Savanah elephants, while Tanzania lost 60% of their elephants between 2009 and 2014 (though some reserves till have healthy populations), one place hit particularly hard was the Selous which 40 years ago had over 150,000 and currently hosts 15,000 elephants.

While the African forest elephant was only recognized as a separate species in 2021 (there has been much argument about its status), what is not in question is its horrific decline in numbers. Indeed finding a web page that gives you an accurate figure is hard work, This may well because one does not exist. There has been horrific population declines over recent years, and the density is incredibly varied across its range.

Unfortunately one thing is clear, in areas of the Congo rainforest where elephants have lost, the forest does less well. There are many plant species which rely on elephants to carry their seeds from from where they are dropped. As such, without forest elephants we are likely to loose many species of trees – to the extent that it might threaten the survival of the Congo rainforest itself.

African forest elephat

So how are Asiatic elephants doing? Unfortunately not great. There are 5 subspecies

First, the Indian elephant. This is the best known and most wide spread. Currently their Indian population is thought to be between 27,000 and 31,000, with between 10,000 and 14,000 across another 10 countries. While I am listing 4 subspecies these all look relatively similar.

Borneo elephant – the most positive estimate, suggests that there are 1500 remaining in the rainforests of Borneo

Sumatran elephant 2400-2800

Sri Lankan elephant 7500

Syrian elephant – this species was lost as much as 1000 years ago, and occupied the western most part of the Asiatic elephant range.

As such what is clear, is that while African elephant populations are falling fast there is time to check this decline. The Asiatic elephant populations are far more in danger.

West african Lion spotted in a reserve in Chad that has not recorded one since 2004

A lioness has been spotted in a reserve in Chad, which has not recorded one since 2004!

Chad being a west African country, has far fewer lions than in the east, read on for more

Lions have not been spotted in the Chad national park of Sena Ouro since 2004, it is not clear if a few lions hung on for the last few decades or if lions have migrated over from a park the other side of the border in Cameroon, where the lion population is a little more healthy.

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Kenyan boy of 4 somehow survives for 6 days on the edge of the Tsavo east national park -where hyenas and jackals roam

The boy wandered 11 miles from his home through wilderness that surrounds the national park. Tsavo east is an incredibly important reserve, and together with Tsavo west, together protect one of the biggest single ecosystems of east Africa.

This is what Tsavo and the surrounding area looks like. As with many reserves they have a relatively soft edge. Animals such as Elephants are intelligent enough to know when they are relatively safe in the reserve, but many animals may have to roam outside for water or food.
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Chimpanzees and gorillas search each other out – “friends with benefits”

Recent studies have shown that it his highly beneficial to both species when these cross species friendships are made. Indeed, it is not merely a question of chance encounters, instead each species will actively search out the other.

Benefits include protection from predators, increased social skills and finding fruiting trees.

While chimpanzees and gorillas can occasionally be seen feeding together, and captive animals can often have close relationships, recent research suggests that at least in some forests this is a common behaviour, and both species recognize its benefits
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Wild chimpanzee mother and baby sighted in Cameroon park Douala-Edea national park for the first time

It is unfortunately true, that in many of the reserves that have been formed, we do not know what lives within the park. In many places there has been so much poaching that animals keep well clear of any human visitors.

It is also true, that in parks with little or no tourism infrastructure, it is incredibly difficult to find animals. Never-the-less, while this makes it clear that when setting up national parks you need to give them some resources if you wish them to be a success tourism-wise, they can still have impressive conservation successes.

In this instance, clearly chimpanzee are still surviving and even breeding.

First Chimpanzee recorded in Douala-Edea national park, and its a mother with offspring

EU blocks uplifting the Hippopotamus to an Appendix 1 endangered animal from an Appendix 2

Hippopotamus populations have declined by 30-50% over the last decade. This is an animal which is moving fast in the direction of extinction, yet despite a plea from 10 african countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) to move them to appendix 1 has been blocked.

Hippopotamus are often easy to find on Safari, as they are usually found in the few deep pools and rivers that exist. They can be very dangerous if you are between them and the water, and roam widely in and out of protected reserves. This is the most common view for people who visit a national park
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Chimpanzee and Gorilla seen spending extended periods together in the wild

Chimpanzees and Gorillas share much of the forests of central and Western Africa. It is therefore not surprising that they might meet from time to time.

As babies, all sorts of creatures spend time together. In Gombe stream the Jane Goodall study documented Chimpanzees and baboons playing together as young.

Wild Gorilla and Chimpanzee feeding in the same tree at the same time
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Guard dogs to save Namibian Cheetah?

While the Cheetah has suffered a horrific fall in range and numbers in the world over the last century, there are some hopes for the species.

Cheetah are not big cats- this means that they often struggle to thrive in small reserves alongside other big cats. What this has meant is that in many countries there are more cheetah outside reserves than inside reserves. This is primarily the case in Southern Africa, in particular Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe where the most free ranging cheetah currently live. To a lesser extent, there are also free ranging cheetah in east Africa in Tanzania and Kenya.

Can the sheep dog be the solution to livestock losses from cheetah? A study in Namibia suggests it may
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