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June 2010 
Inside this issue ...
Holiday courses!
Culture comes to the vultures
Urban biodiversity?
Dr Emily Lane wins award
Director's comment
New arrival at Emerald Animal World
Stringent measures protect King penguins
NZG staff master penguin conservation skills
Maintaining an inland marine aquarium can be challenging!
First genetic assessment of pangolins in SA
Outbreak of deadly primate disease controlled
NZG hosts wildlife medicine courses for vets
ZooClub members investigate SA's biomes
Conservation Grapevine
World governments fail to halt biodiversity loss
Lions targeted for Chinese 'medicines'

 
The pangolin has a conical-shaped head, a long sticky tongue and robust forelimbs with enlarged claws for procuring and eating ants and termites.
 
The Ground pangolin has a unique ‘coat of armour’ – overlapping scales that protect it from predators, bites, stings and injuries.
 
Pangolin body parts are sold for the muti trade. Pangolins are believed to have healing properties to cure various ailments.
NZG conducts first ever genetic assessment of pangolins in South Africa

Desire Dalton1 and Antoinette Kotze2, NZG

Researchers at the Molecular Genetics Unit at the NZG are currently conducting research on pangolins in collaboration with the University of the Free State and the Tshwane University of Technology.

The aim of the project is to study the genetics of the Ground pangolin using microsatellite markers and mitochondrial DNA to assess the level of genetic differentiation and diversity within and between populations. This is the first genetic assessment of pangolins in southern Africa.

Pangolins are among the more peculiar mammalian species due to their uniquely specialised anatomical features adapted to insect-eating. These adaptations include a conical-shaped head, no teeth, a long sticky tongue and robust forelimbs with enlarged claws for procuring and eating ants and termites, of which they are selective feeders.

Overlapping horny scales are another atypical morphological characteristic. The scales consist out of keratin, are yellow-brown in colour and are made of agglutinated hair. They offer protection not only against predators, but also against the bites and stings of their prey, as well as protecting the skin against scratches from the underbrush or sharp rocks.

Today the existence of these mammals is threatened by several factors. These include deaths caused by electric fencing, habitat loss and hunting activities. Another concern is that body parts are sold as food or for the muti trade. Pangolins are believed to have healing properties to cure various ailments. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in Vietnam while skins are exported to markets in Europe for belts, bags and shoes.

1 Dr Desire Dalton is a Molecular Biologist at the NZG
2 Prof Antoinette Kotze is Manager: Research & Scientific Services, NZG