The first week after release was always going to be a tense time; the introduction to a new environment will undoubtedly cause some acute stress. However, if our selection of a release site was a good one then it minimise the chance of the stress building into anything chronic and being detrimental to her health.
To make the transition as smooth as possible a “soft release” approach was adopted. This is where food and water are provisioned at the release site for the entire week. We were pleased to see that only on Saturday night did she feed from the provisions and the start of the rainy season meant that there were more than enough water sources around for her to utilise.
The main priority for this week was to check that she was still alive. The most obvious way to do this would be to see her: easier said than done. For the first three days we decided that we did not want to be too invasive. Previous experience trying to watch her in captivity indicated that she was reluctant to come out of her den if she could smell our presence and we wanted to make sure she came out to feed. The best that we managed was getting estimates of her den site locations from afar; although this did indicate that she was moving.
On Monday we started tracking her at night; to try and identify when she was active. This proved tricky because it was too dangerous to access the den sites at night, therefore we relied on looking for changes in signal strength and bearing estimates at certain safe locations around the release site to help us determine if and when she was active.
The best result came on Tuesday morning when we located and approached her den (picture below) and heard her inside it-solid evidence that she was alive! Over the next few nights we continued to accurately locate her den and set up camera traps (without the flash so as not to stress her) to record when she was active.
On Friday night, her den site was at a location where we were able to set up hammocks nearby. Every hour we went to the den to check if she was still there. At 2:30 she had left, and we then waited until morning to locate her new den site. We woke at first light and were waiting before we went to find where she was sleeping. Then all of the sudden, out of the forest and across the path wandered our pangolin! Looking in good condition, moving without an injury and clearly oblivious to our presence, this assurance that she is doing well was the perfect way to finish off the first week of field work!