It has been a busy three days. Firstly, on the Thursday we released our fourth pangolin, a female P3.
On Saturday we then tracked her to a sleeping site up a tree, we luckily heard movement in the tree tops as we looked up, we saw a pangolin in the trees.
As we watched we noticed that we couldn’t see a transmitter attached, yet we had tracked the signal to this tree. At this point we thought that the transmitter had dropped and resolved to come back that night, camp under the tree and try and catch her when she came to feed and reattach the transmitter.
All night we kept hearing movements in the tree above us, and then, at 1:30 in the morning a pangolin climbed down the trunk. We caught it and to our amazement we had a WILD male pangolin. We got to work attaching a transmitter straight away, so now we can get data from our first wild individual.
What is even more interesting is that it appears the wild male and P3 were in the same tree, together. Now, without getting our hopes up, this could lead to some exciting possibilities. Reinforcement of a depleted population is only going to have a real impact on the conservation of the species if a viable population is established, male and female encounters like what MAY have happened here are vital.
Another consideration is that the individuals released to reinforce these populations are physically and genetically healthy. All our individuals have had comprehensive health checks and knowledge of trade dynamics means they are likely to come from mainland Southeast Asia (and possibly from populations in adjacent Lao PDR and Cambodia) which are unlikely to represent any significantly distinct sub-species that would cause any genetic pollution.
In order for the project to be sustainable in the long term, staff in Cat Tien need to be able to rehabilitate and release pangolins independently of the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program.
Today four members of staff watched and participated in attaching a transmitter to the next pangolin to be released and helping treat the injury of the pangolin recovering after being rescued just over a week ago.
Those helping us today included the director of the rescue centre in Cat Tien; a second member of staff from the rescue centre and two rangers who have worked with us radio tracking, one of which is also training to be a vet.
This is a brilliant step in the project, especially as they all showed a genuine interest in what we were doing. We were able to explain how best to handle a pangolin and how to determine the sex of it.