Good samaritan rescues Pangolin
[The Namibian – 18 August 2011]

As the weather warms up and the night is lit over the full moon period, poaching of wildlife increases. Anybody living in an area where wildlife roams knows this. A pangolin was vicim of this past full moon event and then, although injured the animal got lucky when a good samaritan rescued it.

We cannot get the full story from the pangolin but, knowing the species and the way that traditional healers use these animals gives sufficient clues to what happened. Rescued in Katutura three nights after the August full moon, about ten scales show fresh raw edges where they were chipped off for use. The pangolin scales are chipped in a very specific way by traditional healers and used to create concoctions for their patients. As the treatments are often protracted each time the patient needs a treatment, scales are chipped. In order to do this the patient or the traditional healer must keep the pangolin captive and these animals are notoriously difficult to keep. They will not eat in captivity as their diet and way of eating is so specific and they can dig and climb and squeeze through tight spaces.

Pangolins held for unknown lengths of time and received after being kept in sacks or in very tiny spaces where they are forced to stay curled up almost always have respiratory problems. However, this pangolin must have been tied with wire around the body. In its powerful attempt to escape the wire slipped under the scales and then cut deeply into the flesh. By the time the good samaritan rescued the animal, flies had laid eggs in the wounds and maggots were crawling about.

Pangolins are not easy to treat and their body condition is difficult to assess. However, the strength and energy in this animal and the freshness of the edges of the chipped scales probably means that it was a victim from this past full moon. It is not too severely starved and has a reasonable chance for release as soon as the wounds have healed. This pangolin will be tracked in order to monitor the success of the release.

Liz Komen