Pangolins have been locally extinct in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province for the last 30 or 40 years, experts say. But now, local conservationists are working to slowly reintroduce these shy, sensitive animals in a world-first effort to reinstate wild populations.
The eight species of pangolins together are considered to be one of the most widely trafficked animals in the world, despite the trade being prohibited under CITES. Due to the trade’s illegality, poachers and smugglers work hard to avoid detection, but authorities still manage to intercept thousands of these trafficked animals and their body parts each year. In 2019 alone, authorities seized more than 97 tons of scales from more than 150,000 African pangolins, according to the African Pangolin Working Group, although this is believed to only represent a small fraction of the trade originating from Africa.