Wendy Panaino has devotedly spent the last few years pursuing her postgraduate studies at the University of Witwatersrand researching the responses of Temminck’s pangolins to changes in climate and food availability at the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve for her Ph.D. in Wildlife Conservation and Physiology. She also holds a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences and a B.Sc. (Hons) in Ecology, Environment and Conservation, both obtained at the University of Witwatersrand.
Wendy has dedicated her research to wildlife conservation, in the field at Tswalu while also working as project manager on the Kalahari Endangered Ecosystem Project (KEEP). KEEP aims to understand the responses of multiple Kalahari organisms (including various mammals, birds, and reptiles) to climate change.
A young Wendy never imagined that field research was something she would be pursuing as a career (partly because as a child, the vast world of research and conversation didn’t exist to her). She attributes the best part of her research at Tswalu as the tracking of pangolins every day and then sharing her experiences with as many people as possible. Wendy could not have foreseen how she would be captured by these charismatic animals. The curious habits of pangolins fuelled her passion for understanding nature and for seeking out the answers about the ecology and physiology of one of Tswalu Kalahari’s most iconic species, of which so little is known.
Her research revealed that although pangolins shifted their diet during winter when food availability was low, they still experienced low energy intake and switched to diurnal activity, presumably to offset the metabolic costs of keeping warm at night. Hotter and drier conditions associated with climate change may pose a threat to pangolins in the future in the already hot and dry Kalahari.
Wendy is grateful for the support provided for her research, particularly by the Tswalu Foundation, and believes that her data will provide a step in the right direction towards improving the conservation effort of the species.