There are many animals in danger of extinction nowadays. Elephants are being poached at an alarming rate, close to 100 per day. African lions are still not fully protected, a move that may just lead to their demise. And although you may have never seen this animal, pangolins are also racing against extinction. In case you’re unfamiliar with pangolins, they are prehistoric mammals whose native range spans across Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia and are closely related to the anteater. They’re incredibly (and uniquely) adorable, with gorgeous scales that glisten in the sun, a sweet, innocent face, and a knack for rolling up into a ball to protect themselves. Unfortunately, pangolins are on the endangered species list. Their meat is prized as a delicacy in Africa and Asia, and their unique little scales are regarded as both decoration and medicine, which is why they are among the most trafficked animals in the illegal wildlife trade.
Despite the fact that pangolins were unbothered for millions of years, in the past 10 years, nearly one million pangolins have been taken from the wild and poached for their scales and meat. Thankfully, there are people who are not letting this species disappear into the night. A group of Zimbabwe men, affectionately called “The Pangolin Men” are doing everything they can to protect these scaly creatures. They are constantly called to rescue injured or stressed pangolins with the goal of rehabilitating them, making sure they receive enough food and water, and of course, shielding them from poachers and other threats. These men are able to go forth with their mission thanks to help from the Tikki Hywood Trust, a non-profit that specializes in caring for pangolins.
Caring for pangolins is not an easy task. It can sometimes take a long time for pangolins to open up to people, if at all.
These men have been able to not only help the pangolin but truly connect with the animal on a profound level. These animals have become children of sorts to them.
And just as they would do with a human child, these men are giving everything they have to make sure these creatures are safe and cared for. Their love for this creature is evident in these photos taken by photojournalist, Adrian Steirn.
Without groups like the Pangolin Men and Tikki Hywood Trust, it’s very likely that pangolins would be wiped off the Earth within the next decade. Hopefully, through their efforts, we will never have to see that day.
It is imperative that while respecting the tradition of others, we do everything we can to educate and inform people that these creatures are far more valuable alive and living in peace then pulled apart for decoration or boiled for meat. Since most of us can’t travel to complete this mission on our own, it is crucial that we support the organizations who have dedicated their lives to doing it for us. To learn more about Tikki Hywood Trust, click here.
All image source: Adrien Steirn