Ecology of resident Temminck's Pangolin (Smutsia Temminckii) in Central Namibia

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Namibia University of Science and Technology


Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals worldwide and as Asian species’ numbers have drastically declined, African pangolin species have been increasingly targeted for the illegal wildlife trade. Due to their nocturnal and elusive behaviour, many pangolin species, especially Southern Africa’s Temminck’s pangolin (Smutsia temmicnkii), are understudied and poorly understood. Previous research predominantly stems from the 1990’s and demonstrates highly variable results in pangolin ecology and behaviour. This study represents the first detailed research within Namibia, focusing on the ecology of Temminck’s pangolin in the central shrub savannah habitat on a fenced private nature reserve. The overall objective of this study was to contribute to knowledge of the basic ecology of Temminck’s pangolin to help inform conservation strategies for pangolins through understanding home range sizes and overlaps between individuals, prey preference, and burrow selection. The study was conducted from September 2018 to March 2020 utilizing VHF telemetry, GPS tracking, and field observations. A total of 46 resident individuals were identified on the 22,000 hectare private reserve and 36 were tagged. Home range sizes were calculated for the entire tagging period utilizing MCP and 95% and 50% Kernel density models. Home range and core area during the growing and non-growing seasons for male and female individuals were calculated using 95% and 50 % Kernel Density models and Complex Region Spatial Smoother (CReSS) analysis. Home range sizes on average were 6.32 km2 – 23.97 km2 for males and between 5.10 km2 – 11.11 km2 for females. Core area sizes on average ranged from 1.81 km2 – 7.03 km2 for males and between 1.75 km2 – 2.17 km2 for females. Male home ranges overlapped with four or more female home ranges, showing a polygamous mating system. During the growing season there were 53 instances of home range overlap and 23 instances of core area overlap. During the non-growing season there were 25 instances of home range overlap and 7 instances of core area overlap. Pangolins mostly fed by excavating nests, showed clear preference for 6 species of ants and termites, and fed almost exclusively on Anoplolepis spp. during the growing season although this species was not the most abundant in the area. The study animals preferred burrows of at least one meter deep located at the base of termite mounds in dense thornshrub of mostly Senegalia mellifera. Home range and social dynamics were comparable to those found by Heath & Coulson in Zimbabwe and the preference for Anoplolepis sp. and burrows under termite mounds is comparable to studies done in South Africa. The study assists in determining likely densities of pangolins in Namibia’s thornbush savanna and provides prey and burrow preference variables which can be used to determine suitable release sites for confiscated live trafficked pangolins.




Prediger, K. A. (2020). Ecology of resident Temminck's Pangolin (Smutsia Temminckii) in Central Namibia [Unpublished master's thesis]. Namibia University of Science and Technology.