‘Surprising’ ranges of pangolin deaths from electrical fences (remark)

“South Africa loses between 1,000 and a couple of,000 pangolins every 12 months to fence electrocutions. This a long way overshadows the selection of folks which can be illegally poached and trafficked,” says Dr Darren Pietersen, one in every of South Africa’s main pangolin researchers.

There are 8 pangolin species international, with 4 going on in Asia and 4 in Africa. Of the 4 African species, the Temminck’s flooring pangolin, has the most important distribution vary as it’s discovered from South Africa the entire manner northwards to Sudan. Irrespective of the species, pangolins are thought to be probably the most trafficked mammal globally. Regardless of this, in South Africa the most important danger to the survival of the pangolin is one thing else solely: electrical fences.

Pietersen et al (2022) known that there are greater than 1,000 electrical fence linked pangolin mortalities once a year in South Africa. When in comparison to the estimated 50-100 trafficked pangolins, it’s obtrusive that the superiority of electrical fences poses the best possibility to pangolin populations within the nation.

Pangolin walking on its hind legs. Image courtesy of Tikki Hywood Foundation.
Pangolin strolling on its hind legs. Symbol courtesy of Tikki Hywood Basis.

Such mortalities happen right through Africa. Alternatively electrical fence mortality charges in South Africa considerably overshadow different international locations because of the density of electrical fences used. It’s recently estimated that there are 6 million kilometers of fencing within the nation, with an expanding share being electrified. That is significantly more than neighboring international locations reminiscent of Botswana (~3000km) or Namibia (~1,100km).

In line with South Africa’s Statistics Division 2020 document 37.9% of the rustic contains of industrial farms and recreation ranches. The biggest tracts of those industrial farms and flora and fauna spaces are discovered within the North of South Africa, stretching from the Northern Cape thru to Kwa-Zulu Natal. This coincides with the southern-most distributional vary of the Temminck’s pangolin. Thus, pangolins happen within the spaces with the absolute best concentrations of electrical fences within the nation. That is exemplified in Kruger Nationwide Park, which has the densest inhabitants of Temminck’s pangolin within the nation in addition to a number of 1000’s of kilometers of electrical fences.

Fences play an important function within the a hit control of those industries. Obstacles, reminiscent of fences, cut back illness transmission by way of fighting touch between farmed and wild animals who is also illness carriers. Moreover, they offer protection to cattle and industrial flora and fauna from poaching or predation by way of fighting attainable poachers or huge carnivores get right of entry to to these spaces of land. This successfully reduces circumstances of human-wildlife war. By means of erecting limitations round farmland, wild animals can’t move and thus don’t kill or spoil cattle and vegetation. As their livelihoods aren’t being threatened by way of flora and fauna, farmers are in consequence much less prone to kill any flora and fauna that does stray onto their land. Using fences is carefully connected to the conservation luck of the rustic, protective the pursuits of native communities and industrial spaces.

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Electric fencing in South Africa. Image courtesy of Dr. Darren Pietersen.
Electrical fencing in South Africa. Symbol courtesy of Dr. Darren Pietersen.

Electrical fences often have as much as six are living strands at repeating periods. Some fences may even have an offset strand positioned 500mm on both sides of the fence. The offsets and lowest strands are set to a top of ~200mm above the bottom. Those specs were proven to be most efficient at fighting damage-causing meso-carnivores, like jackals, from crossing the fence as they’re not able to dig beneath it or bounce over it with out being surprised. Those dimensions don’t discriminate between meso-carnivores and different, medium sized mammals, reminiscent of pangolins.

Regardless of the dense armor that pangolins seem to have, they possess a inclined, cushy underbelly which lacks scales. Temminck’s pangolins stroll on their hind legs, elevating their palms in doing so. This leads to the inclined stomach being uncovered when this species of pangolin walks. The stomach sits at roughly 200mm from flooring degree, the precise top of the bottom electrified strands in fences. The title Pangolin comes from the Malay phrase “pëngulin” which interprets to “curler” or “one that has the facility to roll”. When pangolins are threatened, they roll into a good ball, shielding their delicate undersides.

Following stomach touch with an electrified fence, pangolins will roll right into a ball, steadily, across the electrified strand. This reasons the pangolin to be surprised again and again because it stays involved with the are living twine. This acts as a good comments loop; additional triggering the pangolins protection reaction, inflicting it to roll tighter as a substitute of uncurling and transferring clear of the dangerous stimulus. Pangolins which were discovered electrocuted maintain vital epidermal burns on their abdomens, which will additionally penetrate in the course of the keratinous scales at the facets in their our bodies. Their inner organs obtain really extensive harm from the continual electrocution.

Dying happens in one in every of two tactics: both from organ failure following electrocution harm or the animal will succumb to publicity or hunger after last curled across the electrical strand for a number of days. The latter mortality happens on decrease voltage fences the place {the electrical} present isn’t prime sufficient to reason demise, however as a substitute administers steady low voltage shocks. The low voltage shocks steadily cause the pangolins protection reaction rendering the animal caught.

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Pangolin curled into a defensive ball. Image courtesy of Tikki Hywood Foundation.
Pangolin curled right into a defensive ball. Symbol courtesy of Tikki Hywood Basis.

Because of the convenience of use and instant effects, electrical fences are right here to stick in spite of the staggering mortality statistics being reported. However easy mitigation measures can also be taken to fight the most important danger that pangolins in South Africa face. Some of the most straightforward, and most efficient tactics of lowering fence-related pangolin mortalities is to boost the peak of the bottom electrical strand to no less than 300mm above the bottom. This motion on my own will permit nearly all of risk free pangolin-sized and smaller animals to transport underneath the electrical strands with out being electrocuted from touch with the wires. A large benefit of this measure is that it’s easy and simply applied while nonetheless fighting the unsolicited motion of bigger, drawback species. Different changes were much less a hit, reminiscent of leaving small holes (depressions underneath the fencing) at periods alongside the fence, that medium sized mammals are ready to transport thru. This isn’t a well-liked answer because it reduces the potency of the fence at preventing the motion of meso-carnivores.

Some other measure to cut back mortality is common fence tests, to come across caught pangolins sooner than irreversible harm is completed. Importantly it is necessary that any pangolins discovered aren’t simply got rid of and left as they’ll be afflicted by inner accidents, which if now not handled will lead to demise. As a substitute, the pangolin will have to be handled by way of skilled rehabilitators previous to unlock.

An extra method to cut back prime mortality charges comes within the type of good energizers. An energizer acts because the mind of the fence, it controls the quantity of electrical energy flowing in the course of the fence and displays if there are any faults or if touch is made with the electrical strands. The good energizer device can save you electrical energy flowing thru a chosen strand for a pre-determined time sooner than switching again on. This may occasionally permit animals involved with the twine to transport clear of the fence, and on the subject of pangolins, after ceasing its instinctive defensive habits. The electrical energy waft can also be stopped quickly sufficient after animals making touch with the twine to stay accidents minimum.

A Temminck’s pangolin caught in electric fencing. Image courtesy of Tikki Hywood Foundation.
A Temminck’s pangolin stuck in electrical fencing. Symbol courtesy of Tikki Hywood Basis.

The program is recently being examined on recreation farms in South Africa. Sadly, the prime value related to this transformation leads to it now not being simply obtainable. Moreover, folks would possibly want coaching on working the units. Those are hurdles that may be conquer as good energizers are additional evolved.

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The stark statistics on pangolin fence linked mortalities highlights something obviously: all of us have an element to play within the conservation of pangolins. As a farmer or recreation ranch supervisor there are lots of issues that may be accomplished to save lots of now not simplest pangolins however many different species that get stuck up in electrical fences. No matter mitigation measures are hired want to be reasonably priced and ready to cut back fence linked deaths with out compromising the potency that many depend on to stay their animals (wild and home) secure.

They’re armored, however pangolins nonetheless want coverage.

Cara Trivella is an assistant researcher on the Tikki Hywood Basis and is energetic within the rehabilitation and reintroduction of Temminck’s pangolins into the wild.

Ellen Connelly is the Director of Conservation for the Tikki Hywood Basis in Zimbabwe, the place she performs a job within the rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction of Temmincks Pangolins again into the wild.


Pietersen, D. W. (2022). Frame Dimension, Defensive Behaviour, and Season Affect Mortality Likelihood in Natural world Interactions with Electrified Fences. African Magazine of Natural world Analysis, 52(1).

Pietersen, D. W., McKechnie, A. E., & Jansen, R. (2014). A evaluation of the anthropogenic threats confronted by way of Temminck’s flooring pangolin, Smutsia temminckii, in southern Africa. South African Magazine of Natural world Analysis-24-month not on time open get right of entry to, 44(2), 167-178.

Stats SA (2020) ‘Stats SA releases Census of Business Agriculture 2017 File’ To be had at: https://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=13144#:~:textual content=Onpercent20landpercent20usepercent20(aspercent20opposed,122percent2C5percent20millionpercent20hectares) (Accessed 4 Would possibly 2023).

This article by way of Cara Trivella, Ellen Connelly was once first revealed by way of Mongabay.com on 2 June 2023. Lead Symbol: Pangolin strolling on its hind legs. Symbol courtesy of Tikki Hywood Basis.

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