So, after three weeks of tracking P26 left a present for us at the entrance of his last den site-the transmitter! It had snapped off, part of it still attached to the scale, but unfortunately, not the part that emits the signal. Although the transmitter dropping is a problem, I want to put it into perspective, this has still been a success.
Firstly, 5/7 of our transmitters lasted for over three weeks. So far, I know of three other researchers using radio telemetry to study Sunda Pangolin. The first was in Singapore where the habitat was a lot more open. Of 20 pangolins tagged only five lasted over a month. The other two studies on pangolins have been in lowland evergreen forest (same as here) and lasted approx. two weeks (one researcher working with released animals and the other wild).
Secondly, we have managed to get a photograph of 50% of the individuals after the transmitters dropped (see the photographs below) and we are currently camera trapping for the other 50%.
The first three to four weeks is the time period when mortality would be high if releasing them was not a viable option, in other cases that I know of pangolins released in poor condition all died within the first two weeks of release.
So what are we doing to look for P26? Well, the first step is putting a camera trap at the entrances of all previously used den sites.
The second is to bait them with frozen ants-the artificial diet they received in captivity and a scent they are used to. Below is a photograph of P34 investigating the frozen ant bait we left.
The final step is night spotting. This has yet to be successful for us in finding pangolin, however, we are going to walk along the open pathway, in the area where P26 was released. Furthermore, we know that he was regularly active between 23:00-02:00 so we will be out and about at that time to maximise the chance that we will come across him. Maybe if the voting by CNN readers is complete on deciding P26’s new name, I can see if whispering it as we walk through the forest on Thursday night will be successful in coaxing him into view!
Even if we don’t see him, here are some photos of the other wildlife we have come across while out night spotting, including common palm civet, porcupine, pygmy loris and viper!