Pangolin Videos

Friday, May 17, 2013

Baby pangolin survives first month

Click photos to enlarge
The baby pangolin we rescued has managed to survive for over a month now, even though we have had no previous experience in raising one. It is taken out to forage on it's own every evening when it wakes up, or on rainy days, mud termite mounds are brought to the property which it tears apart and ravages! It eats so much it's stomach looks like a balloon by they time he's done. Afterwards it likes to go over to it's water dish and soak in it for a bit while drinking.

Palawan scaly anteater has a
prehensile tail and curls up when
frightened leaving it defenseless to
human poachers.
These animals are amongst the fastest disappearing animals in Palawan. They are poached and sent to China to fulfill their gastronomic palates and they use the scales as medicine, although there is no scientific evidence of the effectiveness. Over 2023 were found by illegal traders of wildlife, 2000 of them dead and already neatly packaged up in plastic bags.

Unfortunately, due to lack of education the locals sell them to poachers or even each other for bush meat. Many don't even know it's illegal to kill them.

This animal has no teeth, it eats only termites and ants. Each adult can consume up to 70 million insects per year.  It is natures' pest control and in the Philippines, is found only on the island of Palawan. When it is scared it curls up into a ball making it easy pickings for a human poacher.

This is the video the first time I watched it climbed the bamboo leg of another cage in it's habitat to eat ants after it had it's fill of water. That same night we let it forage on it's own, which is has been doing ever since.

It is a daunting task to raise these creatures. According to the specialists out there, I am one of a few they know of that have raised a pangolin this long, most die within a week or less. And even now I am always fearful for it. I do not recommend that people take on this creature to raise as a pet. We do plan to release him as soon as he is strong enough to manage on his own.

This baby scaly anteater/pangolin would not take milk in any form from any tpe of dispenser either.
One night it walked off the pation on onto the base of it and began digging. I found an ants nest and licked furiouly away at them. From then on it has been taken to the forests to forge on it's own.
They do grow quite large, up to 2 1/2 feet long,with it's tail about a third as long. Although it looks reptilian it is a mammal which does not breed easily. Perhaps every two years the females will give birth and then only one offspring at a time. They predict that if it continues to be poached at today's rate, they will be extinct in 8 years or less. They live in primary and secondary forests and grasslands as well. There is a lot of information about them on this blog.

Here is Balin, the balintong/pangolin getting weighed. We do weigh it everyday to see how fast it's growing. We also measure it's length every few days to get an idea of how fast it grows. Not much is known about these gentle creatures and we are collecting and writing down data about it from our own observations.
Here is a short video of it feasting on a large termite infested log on our property.

Rescuing a baby Palawan Pangolin or scaly anteater

I had never heard of a scaly anteater aka pangolin or balintong as they are called here in Palawan, before the afternoon when a village boy brought a baby here to be fed. I didn't know what it was, much less what to feed it.

It's little body felt so cold to the touch I put it in blankets to keep it warm till I was able to research it's care on the internet.

There wasn't a lot of information about the care of pangolins. I did read that they cling to their mothers up to 4 months of age and suckle for as long. This was definitely a problem. We tried every which way to give it milk and it wouldn't take in any at all. The night it was brought here, our assistant went out to the forest and brought a mud termite mound for it to eat from. It clawed at those for the first 2 days and then lost interest. We harvested some ants and termites into a bowl and it wasn't interested in those at all either.

First day of pangolin arrival April 4th, 2913.
It basically stopped eating for a day and a half. One night I stayed with it in the habitat room we have on our property for our own animals and other rescues and held it while it slept. It seemed to reassure it a bit. The next day it got up and walked into the drinking water we put out for it and began to crawl up the bamboo leg of a musang (palm civet) cage also in the room with it. I noticed it was lapping up some tiny ants crawling on it.

That same evening we gave it the termite mound, it refused it. We gave it a bowl full of termites, it refused. It then crawled down on the base of our cement patio and began to dig. It found an ants nest which it furiously began to claw at and lick. We realized it wanted to forage for itself. One of the boys in our village, Rj, a high school student, volunteered to take care of it and take it into the forest to forage each time it woke up. Bless his soul. Balin (as we call him now) the balintong or pangolin has now been with us for over a month and seems to be thriving.
One night after it stopped eating,I decided to comfort it by holding it close to my body. Since in the wild they do cling to their mothers for up to 4 month.
A few days after we got this little pangolin, a Chinese ship got stranded on the pristine and protected reefs of Tubatahha. The rangers boarded it and found 2000 dead and processed scaly anteaters neatly packed in plastic bags! This animal, the gentlest creature of all, which has no teeth and curls up into a ball as it's only defense is soon disappearing all over the world to satisfy the Chinese palate for it's meat and the scales in used in Chinese medicine. Even the local villagers eat it as bush meat. It's simply horrifying to me and unfathomable.

2000 dead and packaged pangolins bound for Chinese cuisine. Scales ground up into powder and sold in capsules as Chinese medicine
This photo was of 23 more pangolins found alive on yet another boat in Palawan. Fortunately all were alive, but one did die.
I wrote to several organizations and now I have several people helping me to monitor it's growth. A very caring woman named Sabine Shoppe from Katala Foundation, based in Puerto Princesa has brought me scales to weigh it each day and we also measure it every three days to monitor it's growth. She has come to our place a couple of times to see that the pangolin is indeed doing well. She's been a pillar of strength for me.

If you live in Palawan and read this, realize the people that work for you, especially in rural areas, may not know it is illegal to eat or sell them, so please tell them!!! They say it tastes like tell them to EAT CHICKEN! So much easier to grow.  The pangolin is our natural pest control in the forest, eating about 70 million termites and ants per adult annually!! Not to mention, it is found only in Palawan and not any other province in the entire Philippines.

We hope to grow the pangolin strong enough so that he can be released deep into the forest. I am afraid for it no matter where it's placed. Poachers go deep into the forests to harvest these poor animals as well as other endemic species and it seems it's a very well organized ring of poachers too from the recent body counts.

The PCSD, or the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development has been in touch with me and agrees the pangolin should remain in my care, even though it is technically illegal for me to have it. Since we are of the few in the world keeping one alive, they have granted me unofficial permission for now to raise it till it can be released.

I'd like to give my deepest and most profound thanks for many emails back and forth with good information on keeping this creature alive to:

Sabine Shoppe of the, based in Palawan for her site visits to my place and her good suggestions and advice, tools and instruments for weighing and measuring the pangolin as well as personal encouragement.

A wonderful woman, Lisa Hywood of the Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe who has emailed me often with good advice and she has bolstered my spirits with her encouraging words; because I often feel very insecure and terribly afraid I might do the wrong thing for the pangolin. She has given me good and practical advice from her own experience of creatures in that part of the world.

Markus Handschuh of the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiverity in Cambodia for the pdf's on the care and feeding of the pangolin and photos of the habitats there, as well as for his personal encouragement on our endeavors.