Ker & Downey Botswana has become the first southern African safari operator to adopt the pangolin viewing guidelines, published by nonprofit conservation organisation Pangolin.Africa, as a standard for all its guides.
The Pangolin Guardians programme was devised to educate people about the pangolins as a species and what guests and guides should (or should not) do when they are lucky enough to encounter one in the wild.
The free two-part online mobile-friendly course takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. The participant is issued with a personalised certificate of completion at the end.
The first part of the course sets out to fill in some of the ‘knowledge gaps’ with such a misunderstood animal, including whether pangolins and armadillos are related and how many pangolin species there are in the world.
The second part addresses much-needed advice on what to do when encountering a pangolin in the wild. These viewing guidelines were developed after a pan-African survey, completed by over 500 guide trackers, about current viewing attitudes was compiled. This data was presented to pangolin specialists and guide training organisations and a protocol was devised.
“What became clear from the survey was that most people didn’t know that a pangolin curled up or lying on the ground is an animal under huge stress. Pangolins don’t vocalise when threatened so people thought it was OK to approach it (or worse pick it up) causing the animal even more stress,” says Toby Jermyn, Head of Pangolin Africa.
“A stressed pangolin is expending energy it doesn’t have to waste, cutting down on its foraging time and will most probably cause the pangolin to abandon its home range in search of an area where that might not happen again.”
Ker & Downey Botswana jumped at the opportunity to enroll its staff in the programme. In addition to the certificate of completion the company has also ordered Pangolin Guardian metal badges for its graduating staff to wear as a sign of their commitment to pangolin conservation and ethics.
“We are continuously striving to enhance our knowledge and skill set. This course provides invaluable information and guidelines on pangolin sightings. The accessibility of the course in both English and Setswana ensures that the ‘Pangolin Guardian’ status extends beyond the guides to include the entire team," said Fran Hird, MD of Ker & Downey Botswana.
The Pangolin Guardians programme will be available for anyone to take and Ker & Downey Botswana will encourage its guests to also take the course.
“It’s important that the clients and the guides understand what to do at a pangolin sighting so everyone can enjoy it with minimal, if any, disturbance to the pangolin they are viewing. Seeing a pangolin in the wild is the ultimate wildlife experience and by respecting the animals and not causing it stress would mean potential additional sightings of the same animal in the same area for many years to come,” concluded Jermyn.