Late afternoon on 6th February 2017, I received a call from the KWS Senior Scientist Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA) who asked if Tsavo Trust would assist to collect a rescued Pangolin from Galana Ranch and ascertain its health and status and report on the same.
We collected the Pangolin (Ground Pangolin Smutsia temminckii) from Galana Ranch (Danisa airstrip) by air and returned at sunset to Tsavo Trust HQ. The female adult Pangolin at first glance seemed in good shape, but obviously balled up and petrified due to the traumatic day it had been through.
This Pangolin was first found by some Watha community members from Kisiki Village and caught mid morning on 6th February 2017 along the riverine woodland of the Galana River. They informed Galana Wildlife Conservancy (GWC) who in turn informed KWS security team in the area, who then traveled by vehicle to collect the Pangolin. This same team informed KWS Research Dept. at TCA HQ in Voi who in turn called Tsavo Trust.
It is important to note that the areas around Kisiki village have become increasingly populated by humans in recent years as well as large-scale irrigation schemes in progress and sadly this area is no longer safe for all forms of wildlife. The need to rescue this Pangolin is therefore totally justified.
Brief Pangolin Facts:
Just to mention a few brief and interesting facts regarding the Ground Pangolin:
-Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii)
-Dispersal areas – South, Central and East Africa
-Considered one of the most illegally trafficked animals on earth, with some estimates claiming that sales now account for up to 20% of the entire wildlife black market
-Classified by IUCN Red List as vulnerable (VU) and listed on Appendix II of CITES and is believed to be in serious decline
-Very rarely seen and very secretive
-Life span up to 20 years
-Average adult weight 9kg to 18kg
-Scales make up 20% of total body weight
-Can constrict their ears and nostrils to keep insects out when feeding
-They eat ants and insect but are very fussy and sensitive to their food choice
-They have no teeth and they eat small rocks to aid digestion
-They are highly endearing creatures
Following expert advice from The Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe (who are world renowned experts on Pangolins), we examined the animal and found no injuries or anything obviously wrong with this special creature. She weighed 9.8kgs, measured approximately 1 meter in length when open and outstretched, outer circumference when curled up is 33 inches (84cm) and came across as very strong and healthy.
She was left to rest and not long after darkness came, she was up and about drinking water and searching for ants and a way to escape from her temporary holding facility. She was monitored the entire night (due to fascination as well as to make sure she was truly healthy) and during that short time a soft spot quickly developed for this truly extraordinary creature.
Release into Tsavo East Nat. Park:
On the late evening of 7th February 2017, a joint Tsavo Trust/KWS Research and Monitoring team was deployed to release her in a suitable and secure location, one that mimicked her original home as much as possible. She was successfully released in an ideal spot, very far from human habitation and deep inside the Tsavo East Nat. Park along the north bank of the Galana riverine woodland (same water course from which she was rescued further down).
This location has many termite mounds nearby, the Galana River watercourse, several rocky outcrops and a thickly wooded riverine section that the team felt was ideal for this Pangolin’s release site. The altitude is approximately 500 feet higher than her original rescue site.
This is not something that happens everyday and what a privilege and honor it has been to be in a position to spend just this short time with this delightful individual. On behalf of the Pangolin, we would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all involved, starting with the Watha community for taking the initiative not to kill this Pangolin, Galana Wildlife Conservancy and its community outreach program that is clearly working, the Kenya Wildlife Service (Emusaya Platoon and Research and Monitoring Dept. – TCA HQ) and the Tikki Hywood Trust for all contributing, in their different and varying ways to ensure this little Pangolin has a chance to live on. This is a fine example of the powers of collaboration between organisations.
CEO Tsavo Trust