An endangered species is any animal or plant at risk of becoming extinct or in danger of being eradicated from the Earth. The 21st of May is Endangered species day. A day we can shine a light on the animals whose numbers have declined so much over the years that they have sadly found a place on the endangered species list. At South Africa’s Kapama, this topic is very near to our hearts. We are very passionate about nature. There are too many animals whose existence is at risk at the moment. We hope by reading through our blog, we can expand your knowledge on a few endangered species you could see here on Kapama.
I will start with an animal that I am sure many of you are unfamiliar with, the Pangolin.
Its name means: “one that rolls up” describing the defense mechanism of this scaly mammal as it will roll itself into a ball by wrapping its tail over its face when confronted by a predator, forcing the predator to try and penetrate its amour. This shy and harmless animal, feeding on termites, ants and some other insects, has become the most trafficked mammal worldwide. Each year it is estimated that tens of thousands of pangolins are poached for their scales. The scales get used in traditional Asian medicines due to their “precious composition”.
The reality is pangolin scales are made of keratin, just like fingernails. Their meat is seen as a delicacy for the affluent Asian communities. There are eight pangolin species worldwide. The one you could be lucky to see on Kapama is the Temminck’s ground pangolin, the only species occurring in southern Africa. With them being mainly nocturnal, finding them in the wild is tough, however, we have been super lucky on Kapama to have had some incredible encounters with these beautifully unique animals.
Next on our list is a 2-3 ton animal that is so incredibly majestic, the Rhinoceros.
There are five different rhino species. In the last decade, close to 10 000 African rhinos have died through poaching, with a rhino still being lost every day. These magnificent animals are poached for their horns, once again for traditional medicines, traditional beliefs and a status symbol in certain cultures.
The rhino horn is made of keratin. Although there is a decline in the number of rhinos poached each year, their population still needs a lot of time to recover from the ruthless poaching over the past few decades. The white rhinos that roam Kapama are under the watch of our anti-poaching unit, dedicated to protecting and conserving them. These large prehistorically looking grazers are a highlight on a safari for all who visit us.
A third animal on the endangered species list: the painted dog – or commonly known as the African wild dog. Wild dogs are not resident on Kapama. As roamers, they can cover distances of over 50 km in one day. Although, over the past 18 months Kapama has had incredible sightings of wild dogs. Across Africa, there are only about 6,600 Wild Dogs in the wild, making them the continent’s 2nd most Endangered carnivore behind the Ethiopian Wolf. The African wild dog is critically endangered due to severe habitat loss, snaring, conflict with humans and conflict with other predators.
This blog could be an entire range of books if one were to delve deep into each endangered animal, so I will summarize a few according to the threats they face. The biggest threat to animals include:
-The reduction in their habitat size, which leads to human-wildlife conflict and results in their decline. (Wild dogs, southern ground hornbill, vultures etc.)
-Traditional beliefs and medicines (Pangolins, rhinos, lions, elephants etc.)
-Snares, which targets no individual and unfortunately affects anything that finds itself caught by it (Leopards, wild dogs, lions, any other animal).
Endangered species day not only shines a light on what is happening to our wildlife but also celebrates the conservation work done to protect these species. Thank you to all individuals and organizations fighting to bring these species back from the brink of extinction. Africa would not be the same without its magnificent wildlife.
I believe that the more you know about an animal, the more room you have to care for it. The more people caring, the greater the possibility to change the fate of these endangered animals.
I hope this blog has enlightened some of our readers on the plight of these animals. I implore you all to spread the word for these incredible animals, no matter which one, no matter where they are from, every single one deserves every little bit of help we can give them.
Story, video and images by: River Lodge Ranger, Tasha van den Aardweg