November 7, 2019

Pangolin Consortium Works to Save One of the World’s Most Trafficked Mammals

The Pangolin Consortium includes: Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Memphis Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Turtle Back Zoo, Gladys Porter Zoo, Columbus Zoo, and the Pangolin Conservation.

It has been three years since the Pangolin Consortium rescued a group of white-bellied tree pangolins from the wild in Togo, Africa to help save this highly trafficked mammal.

The Pangolin Consortium has met each year to share information on husbandry, diet nutrition, veterinary treatment, education, research, and conservation efforts. In the summer of 2019, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium was proud to host the latest meeting. Staff from each organization presented information on successes and challenges in caring for these rare and unusual animals, as well as discussing proposals on research and conservation efforts.

Pangolins are solitary and elusive animals in the wild. Information regarding their diets, activity levels, and the different species is limited so the consortium is working to advance what they know and extend that knowledge to protecting pangolins in the wild.

One of the topics discussed was diet and nutrition and how to ensure the pangolins receive the needed amount of nutrition from their food.

In the wild, a pangolin diet consists of ants and termites, they also absorb additional micro-nutrients from the around the nests as well.
In zoos, pangolins are fed a diet of four different species of insects supplemented by weaver ants and ant eggs but the current diet doesn’t seem to provide the additional needed nutrients. The Brookfield Zoo is analyzing various diets to determine which foods will provide the pangolins with the needed amount of nutrients that they require.

The consortium is also working to better understand the pangolin family tree through DNA research. Working closely with Duquesne University and the Smithsonian Institute, researchers are studying DNA samples from pangolins to better understand their physiology and family tree structure.

The Smithsonian Institute took a sample from a female pangolin at the Pittsburgh Zoo to study and through her DNA they were able to determine the complete genome of her species. The genome represents the complete genetic material make-up of an organism down to the smallest parts of a strand of DNA. A “first” in pangolin research, this information from the DNA sample will be placed in a genome bank for future study.

Members of the Pangolin Consortium are also hoping to travel to Togo soon to meet with colleagues from the country’s only university in the capital city of Lome as well as with government officials. Members hope to collaborate with scientists in Togo to develop field research projects and collect biological samples from wild pangolins that will improve our understanding of pangolin biology overall and lead to improved husbandry for the pangolins in our care.

Learn more here.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is American Humane Conservation-certified, and a member of American Humane and the Zoological Association of America. For more information, visit