A Cry Scaling Off Soon

It looks like a pinecone, a walking pinecone with a tongue longer than its own body. This fascinating mammal is called a Pangolin, an animal fairly unknown to most people in the world – even though it’s the most trafficked animal in the world! In some Asian countries, their meat is considered a delicacy in noble restaurants. Their scales and claws, on the other hand, are used in traditional Chinese medicine. There are a total of eight species in the world, living in Asia and Africa. And all eight species are threatened with extinction.

By Stefanie Rach

“The last light of the sun disappears behind the horizon. It gets cooler. The taste of the air changes – tangier, more aromatic. Very tempting. I stick out my nose to inhale the promising wafts of air. I think it’s time for a snack. I can smell a termite mound nearby. Yummy! In true Pangolin fashion, I unroll and slowly straighten up. One more sniff – yes, that’s the way to go.

But I haven’t taken many steps away from my burrow when suddenly something hits me on the head. A terrible pain explodes! My vision goes black…

…When I open my eyes again, it is deepest night around me. Not a glimmer of light anywhere. I cannot move because there is no room. I am surrounded by walls. What is happening here? I don’t know how long I have been in this dark cave. The wound on my head hurts terribly. I feel weak. Odd noises, completely unknown to me, are echoing through the cave wall. These are not the sounds of the bush, my home. Where am I? I am hungry and thirsty. But there is no water in here. Only darkness. And fear.“

“ I open the door to the enclosure and see that my little Pangolin is curled up in his nest. But he seems to have heard me, because he is already sticking his nose out curiously. He has been here at the rehabilitation centre for three weeks now. He was seized from poachers who wanted to take him out of the country. He was so weak when he came to me! And completely dehydrated. I wasn’t sure he would survive. Too many times I have seen a rescued pangolin die on us shortly after arrival. The stress of captivity and the lack of food and water is just too much for these scaly little guys.

But our newest rehab member is doing much better now. He patiently lets me examine his head: The poachers had knocked him unconscious, but the wound has healed well. While I am weighing him, I notice that my little Pangolin is now becoming more active. He knows that it is now time for his walk. We will spend the next few hours out in the bush, where hopefully he will find some ants or termites for dinner. With each passing day he is falling more and more into his natural behaviours. Soon we will be able to release him into the wild.“

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