News Release

Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,
May 19, 2017
NOTE: Images of the pangolin at Brookfield Zoo can be downloaded below.
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Chicago Zoological Society Leading Conservation Efforts to

Help Save Endangered Pangolins

Brookfield, Ill. – For the first time in its history, the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is exhibiting the pangolin, a rare and unique animal found in Africa and Asia. Since April 2016, the Society has welcomed 13 white-bellied tree pangolins to the zoo. Guests can see a male on exhibit in the Habitat Africa! The Forest.
Four species of pangolins are native to Asia and four are native to Africa—and they are all facing extinction. Over the past 10 years, more than a million have been poached from the wild for food in the illegal bushmeat trade, for their use in Asian medicines, and for their scales, which are made into jewelry. Efforts to prevent uncontrolled poaching have failed to reduce losses. The situation for pangolins has reached a critical level in Asia and will soon reach the same critical level in Africa. This past January, all species of pangolin were officially declared endangered.
May 19—marking the 12th annual Endangered Species Day in the United States, recognizing conservation efforts nationwide to protect endangered species and their habitats—is a perfect date to focus on the unique conservation efforts regarding pangolins. The plight of these animals has spurred six zoological institutions in the United States, including the Society, and one private not-for-profit organization into taking action. They have formed a Consortium that is working to establish a sustainable population of white-bellied tree pangolins under professional care to aid in better understanding their behavior and physiology and to support field conservation efforts. The other members of this Consortium are Pittsburgh Zoo, Turtleback Zoo, Memphis Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Gladys Porter Zoo, and the not-for-profit Pangolin Conservation.
Much of what can be accomplished in zoological institutions in the study of pangolins’ reproductive physiology, diseases, and behavior—along with the establishment of new field techniques—can be extremely difficult to accomplish in the wild. Caring for these animals in a zoo environment is a delicate process, and in the past, pangolins did not thrive well in institutions. However, through diligent research and efforts, including those of the Consortium, pangolin husbandry techniques have vastly improved. During the first year of the Consortium’s program, several member institutions, including Brookfield Zoo, have had successful births.
In addition to conservation efforts here in the United States, the Consortium will also begin working with zoologists and students from the University of Lomé in Togo, one of the West African countries where pangolin live, to create and strengthen conservation efforts there. As such, the Consortium is establishing a conservation grant program that will provide funding to support field research.
Consortium members can reach over 7.8 million guests a year with information about pangolins. Despite increased media and social media coverage of the illegal activities surrounding pangolins, most people in North America don’t know what a pangolin is and have no knowledge of the threats to their survival. Providing this information is important, as is helping people understand the role they can play in pangolin conservation.
The Society has been one of the driving forces in the development of the Consortium and its research and conservation efforts. It is uniquely qualified to take this lead role as one of only a few North American zoos to have an endocrinology lab and the only Consortium member to have an onsite CT scan and an established imaging consultation service catering to aquariums and other zoos. The Society also has the only board-certified exotic animal radiologist and anesthesiologist in the zoo profession and a leading veterinarian specialist in animal reproduction.
“The program and its future abilities to support pangolin conservation is very exciting for us,” says Bill Zeigler, senior vice president for animal programs for CZS. “The Society believes that successful conservation is about building leadership and collaborative efforts among institutions and range countries. The ability to introduce pangolins to Chicagoland and share their story with the more than two million guests who visit Brookfield Zoo every year is an incredible opportunity to educate the public about pangolins and crucial efforts the Society has embarked on to help conserve these species. The more people learn, the more they are willing to help.”
Pangolins have a distinctive look with a cone-shaped head, a long prehensile (grasping) tail, and a body that is covered with sharp, artichoke-shaped scales made of keratin. Often referred to as scaly anteaters, pangolins have the same long, muscular tongue as anteaters, covered with sticky saliva used to scoop up ants and termites. Adult pangolins can eat up to 20,000 ants and termites a day, adding up to 7.3 million ants and termites in one year. They are solitary animals, with males and females coming together for mating. Females give birth to a single baby. A baby’s scales are soft but begin to harden within days of its birth. Young pangolins do not walk for several weeks but cling to their mother’s tail to get around.  At approximately four to six months of age, they are weaned and ready to be on their own.

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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Director of Public Relations
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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