Last weekend was spent at Mkhuze Game Reserve on a Traditional Leaders’weekend with the KwaJobe Community organised by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlfe and Project Rhino with the idea of engaging the community, primarily in the protection of the rhino species in the park. Communities have always found themselves disconnected from happenings in the park and yet with tourism to game reserves representing a high proportion of economic income to the park it is imperative to demonstrate how local communities and reserves can work together so the benefits are seen by all stakeholders.
As the reserve falls just on the most southern end of the range of the Cape pangolin, Smutsia temminckii, it was a great opportunity to share knowledge about the plight of the pangolin so curb the risk of losing it before some people even know what it is.
Representatives from NGOs Project Rhino, Wildlife Act, WildLands, Phinda Game Reserves and Panthera where all present alongside 20 local community leaders.
Due to its solitary nature, the pangolin runs the risk of becoming extinct before people even realise. The aim of the talk was to introduce the species to local leaders, highlight the plight that they face and why they are important in the ecosystem. Much of the information gathered about the pangolin across the range of all 8 species comes from local communities regarding sightings, uses and potential declines. To date, there is little information from Zulu communities, with even the local name remaining unknown, this weekend represented another opportunity to gather this type of information from community leaders.
From this event we began to gather information about recent and historical sightings, although many of the leaders had no idea what a pangolin was. We gave out postcards as a sign of good luck, as in many cultures that’s exactly what the pangolin represented, which is why they were hadn’t to tribal leaders.
The hope is that this will initiate information sharing between the local community, the park and local NGOs and that, with the help of Rhino Art, we can launch the One More Generation pangolin art campaign to engage local children to protect the pangolin.
One primary school in New York was feeling particularly inspired after seeing the Reddit AMA on World Pangolin Day. The primary school students decided to write their own questions that would be posed to me over Skype. Including questions about how long pangolin’s tongue is and what animals are they closely related to.
The students enjoyed the Skype so much they sent me both a thank you card and found out more by reading the book.
Even more than that, they are now building pangolins out of recycled material as part of their innovation day!
Wonderful to see how inspired they are about this animal!