The Temmicks pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) are South Africa’s resident pangolin species.
This mysterious mammal is seldom seen, but pangolins are one of the most traded species on earth. People eat pangolins and use their scales for medicinal purposes.
Pangolins are routinely confiscated and are brought by the authorities to registered veterinary facilities for emergency care. One of these is the Provet Animal Hospital in Hoedspruit Limpopo province South Africa.
This is owned by famous wildlife veterinarian Dr Peter Rogers. Resident small animal veterinarian Dr Debbie English is the receiving veterinarian who dedicates much of her time to ministering emergency care to these animals.
They are generally received in extreme states of stress and are often injured, dehydrated, and malnourished.
Blood smears reveal they carry blood parasites and there is very little knowledge about these agents.
It appears healthy pangolins might be carriers, but it has also become clear that when stressed these parasites can cause destruction of red blood cells leading to life-threatening anaemia. Very little work has been done to study these diseases, even to the point on naming them. Using sophisticated techniques, DNA extractions of the samples will be done as well as amplification of both the 18S & 16S genes. This will enable the identification of the parasites.
It is well known in other species that blood parasites differ in their ability to cause disease, and most importantly the drugs needed to control them vary depending on the causative agent.
Working with Provet, who has stored blood samples we have sent 14 samples to the University of Pretoria’s Department of Tropical Diseases for analysis.
Identifying these agents will help save pangolin lives and it is for this reason Back to Africa is involving itself in this research.