The Cape pangolin (Smutsia temminickii) is one of the four species of pangolin found in Africa © Christopher Scott / Getty

Researchers at the University of Sussex have analysed data across 14 African countries to estimate how many pangolins are being caught, killed and traded every year.

The study is the first to calculate the regional estimates of the exploitation of African pangolins.

It found that up to 2.7 million pangolins are harvested illegally in central Africa, although the figure could vary between 0.4 to 2.7 million.

There are eight species of pangolin (four in Africa and four in Asia) but relatively little is known about the African pangolin.

“With hunting increasing, it is crucial we investigate how this links to the illegal wildlife trade,” said lead author Daniel Ingram.


The Cape pangolin is also known as Temminck's ground pangolin, ground pangolin or South African pangolin © FLPA / Malcom Schuyl / Getty

Click here to find our more amazing pangolin facts

The pangolin is the world’s most illegally traded mammal due to demand in Asia for its scales, which are used in traditional medicine.

Data was gathered from 113 sites in the 14 African countries, including Cameroon, Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Read the full paper in Conservation Letters

You can find out more about pangolins in our Discover Wildlife feature below:

15 amazing pangolin facts

Photo © Nigel Dennis/Getty

The ground pangolin, also known as Temminck's pangolin or the Cape pangolin. © Nigel Dennis/Getty

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine


Megan ShersbyNaturalist, writer and content creator