Meet the Guardians of Namibia’s Pangolins


N/aici Isak \ai\ae, aged 53, is from the rugged Aha Hills village in Nyae Nyae. Isak’s love for nature goes beyond words. For years, Isak safeguarded water points and boreholes from wildlife, thus minimizing human-wildlife conflict. He is a living testament to ancestral wisdom. His forebearers have been his greatest teachers, imparting invaluable knowledge of hunting and the use of wild plants. The land, says Isak, provides him with abundant gifts such as food, water, income, and peace of mind.

Isak joined the Pangolin Conservation Research Foundation in 2022. As a dedicated tracker, his responsibilities include monitoring and protecting pangolins. This pangolin initiative has brought transformative changes in the community, creating employment opportunities for local rangers who use their Indigenous knowledge to conserve wildlife. Isak’s smile radiates when he talks about his work. “I feel happy because I get some income, and I can support my family,” he says.

Beyond income, pangolin conservation resonates deeply with Isak. “Pangolins are important because they are part of our environment; we have to save these animals,” he says passionately. There are many myths and beliefs surrounding the pangolin, but contrary to local beliefs, Isak hasn’t heard them whistle before. Instead, he’s watched them walk gracefully on their hind legs.

“I like to walk around in nature,” he remarks; a simple statement that belies his connection to nature and countless journeys across the region. On average, Isak walks about 6.2 miles a day tracking pangolin. He walks without a GPS, and when asked how he knows it’s 6.2 miles, he says that he is guided by instinct and ancestral teachings. He recalls an old saying that when your legs grow weary, you have traveled 6.2 miles.

Beyond tracking, Isak’s mission is to instill a deep love for nature and wildlife conservation in young hearts. “Young people should conserve nature and learn how to live with animals,” he emphasizes. He’s determined to ensure that his ancestral knowledge is passed down through generations, bridging the gap between tradition and modern living.

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