The pangolin is one of the under-rated endangered species in Zimbabwe and beyond. The endangered mammal commonly known as Haka and Inkhaka in Ndebele receives more threats in Zimbabwe due to cultural beliefs centered around it. There is a strong need to protect the Haka species before it becomes one of the folktales we tell generations to come. Protecting the Haka (pangolin) was the sole reason why Haka Game Park was established. Across the world, it is recorded as the most trafficked mammal by the African Wildlife Foundation. We have to contribute to the protection of the Haka species.
The average weight of the pangolin is twenty (20) kgs. It is a mammal, although often mistaken as a reptile because of its scales. Their scales make up to 20% of their total body weight. The scales are for defense mechanisms. When in danger, the pangolin rolls up, and the scales perform a cutting motion. When threatened, they can also emit a noxious-smelling acid from their glands, similar to skunks except there is no spraying. The pangolin is a toothless animal, its stomach is responsible for grinding food because of its gizzard-like structure. You might think its long tongue compensates for it is toothless. The tongue is said to be longer than its body. The length of its tongue helps it burrow the insects underground. During the day, the haka remains in its burrow and goes hunting at night.
Cultural beliefs about the pangolin
In Zimbabwe, the haka is believed to be a sacred animal meant to be gifted to chiefs and leaders. It is also believed that its scales, when mixed with bucks from other trees neutralize witchcraft powers and evil spirits. Their scales are made of keratin, which is the same substance that makes up human hair and nails. Some believe the scales have healing properties. It is said that the pangolin scales can heal cancer asthma amongst other things. This, however, has not been scientifically or medically proven to be correct. All these theories have contributed to the endangerment of the species.
How Can you help in Keeping the Pangolin safe?
The first step towards change is raising awareness. When people are conscious of their decisions they are likely to make better choices. Raise awareness by educating about this endangered species in schools. If we don’t take initiative in educating the younger generation, the myths about the mammal will be passed on from generation to generation and it will become extinct. Let us engage our communities in raising awareness and protecting the haka species.
World Pangolin Day 16 February