Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammal. These men are their last line of defence

 
 
 

As the sky turns from blue to orange in the Zimbabwe bush, a cool breeze blows to chase away the scorching heat of the afternoon, ushering in the night. A small brown mammal with plate-like scales rustles through the grass. Little does it know that it walks close to the path of extinction.

There hasn’t been a more dangerous time to be a pangolin. The species has become the most trafficked mammal in the world. They are illegally traded for their scales, as bush meat or for medicinal purposes. But the threat of their extinction rarely makes news. An organisation in Zimbabwe aims to change this by educating the public about an animal many may not know even exists. Enabled by the Tikki Hywood Trust, a group of men dedicate their lives to rehabilitating captured pangolins. They are entrusted with caring for animals that have endured major stress, often having been transported many kilometres bound in a sack, starved and dehydrated.

The process takes a lot of patience. It is a difficult task to gain the trust of the pangolins while trying to nurture them to full health. But the men do this with love for the animal. They have developed an intimate relationship while caring for them. Pangolins are like their children. And like any parent, they will protect their family from anything that poses a threat.