On Friday, rangers in the National Park rescued a wild pangolin from a trap in the forest. It was kept at the nearby rangers’ station overnight before being brought to the science department at the park headquarters. Thankfully the animal had no injuries and the park was keen to release straight away.
Unfortunately, we were unable to convince the park to allow us to either attach a transmitter before release or monitor the animal for a week in our environmentally enriched enclosure to see if and how stressed it was and ensure it was in a condition suitable for release.
It is possible to appreciate why the park wanted to release an animal as soon as possible: the fear that the animal will lose its natural instincts if kept in captivity. Although this may hold some weight, put into context, the amount of time the animal would have spent in captivity would have allowed recovery from the stress of being trapped, transported around and spending several nights in inappropriate enclosures.
Even the slightly longer period of time it would have been held for in order to attach a transmitter would have had minimal impact on the animal’s natural behaviour, especially considering the amount of thought that has been put into the enclosures and diets of the pangolins we deal with.
The best deal that we could reach was to release the animal at a site we had previously assessed, with ample food sources and tree hollows for den sites and the agreement that food provisions and a camera trap could be set up. If the animal is seen to be continually returning and feeding from the supply over the next week, attempts can be made to bring the animal back and put into our care.
On the surface the rescue and release of a pangolin sounds like a success story and for the sake of the animal, let’s hope it is. However, it highlights how important the dissemination of the results of this work is among National Parks and conservation organisations. Sharing our experiences will enable decisions to be made on a case by case basis, rather than simply following rules without any consideration of context.
However, let’s keep our fingers crossed for this animal. The park and the staff clearly have good intentions and a positive attitude that prevented there being yet another victim of the wildlife trade. Furthermore we can celebrate the fact that there are some wild pangolins left in the park!