Pangolins – a species that has thrived for 80 million years – are struggling to survive in today’s world. This is because they’ve become the most trafficked mammal on Earth. Their meat and scales are in high demand, even in the United States, where their leather is used in items like boots and bags. Their scales are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thanks in part to you, though, we’ve been able to help some of the victims of the traffic trade.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, Greater Good Charities has teamed up with the conservation organization Wildlife At Risk in Vietnam to build enclosures for pangolins rescued from trafficking. There are currently two enclosures, with plans to begin constructing a third later this year. The enclosures – equipped with items like large tubes with holes to hunt ants and domes to simulate underground dirt nests – serve as both a safe spot for the animals to recover from their ordeal and to help scientists study the species’ eating and breeding habits while in captivity.
Wildlife At Risk Director Khoi Nguyen says, “Our facility where we save and conserve endangered species is also a ‘practical workshop’ for any students of biology to study more. We, at this stage, just record any observation of the species for a report as secondary data for any research in the future, including on zoonotic diseases due to trading, or animal behavior during breeding seasons, which in turn can help with management decisions, or even open a case to reintroduce and/or rehabilitate a local extinction of pangolins in a certain area.”
This project also recently had a bit of a happy addition: A new pangopup! The baby pangolin was born in February. When they first arrive on the scene, the pangopups have soft, white scales that will harden after a few days. They also get around by riding on their mothers’ tails while clinging to their scales.
This latest addition – as well as another born since this partnership began – has big implications for the project and may ultimately help with biodiversity and the environment.
Nguyen explains, “We think that the more we can contribute back to nature, the better for biodiversity – it’s good for the ecosystem and finally, our environment. This birth also creates a new life. Our last 15 years of observing pangolin breeding in captivity, there is only one birth a year. So breeding a new pangolin after a year is successful. This is also important information to educate young people of the difficulty of working to save and protect an endangered species.”
The hope is that more of the animals breeding can also help with species recovery, as the offspring are released back into nature. They also work to release rehabilitated adults back into the wild.
The breeding can be a bit of a slow process, though, as there’s been an imbalance of sexes among the pangolins within the project.
Nguyen explains, “One of barriers to our project at the beginning is the imbalance of pangolin sex. We only had one male and two females, and then three female pangolins. We are not a wildlife farm and we have to wait, though we don’t want any more pangolins to be poached and traded. For now, WAR and GreaterGood can count our physical contribution back to nature by any pangopup released to the wild. The more resources we get the better for pangolins in captivity, like enrichment material (plastic domes produced by the Desert Plastic Company in the US) and natural food (ant eggs and sometimes termites in a whole net). Some people feed wildlife with human-made food, but we do rescues for conservation and we try as much as we can to provide the food animals eat in nature.”
The organization says that food can be a little pricey, but your contributions have helped ensure the animals are eating what they do in the wild. They hope that going forward, they can also get the resources to track the released animals to better understand how they fare.
If you’d like to contribute to this project and the recovery of pangolins, find out what you can do by clicking below!