By: Tulshi Laxmi Suwal from Nepal
Pangolin Research in Nepal
My first encounter with live pangolin happened during my thesis field work. Early in the morning, I was with a local assistant studying pangolin pine forest habitat; I saw a female Chinese Pangolin with her baby. It seemed as if it was searching for its food- ants and termites. We slowly approached her and despite how close we were, she didn’t run away or show any aggression. But she felt our presence and rolled with its baby into tight ball. I felt so excited and heart-touched seeing such caring behavior to its baby. This observation was the first in Nepal of a wild mother and baby pangolin.
With time, I became even more interested to study their behavior. So I went to the Zoo to study pangolin behavior in captivity and document their activities. I observed pangolin behavior for the whole day and night. In captivity, female pangolins with babies enjoyed eating boiled eggs, which was very interesting. Mother pangolins showed intense care towards their babies.
I feel very lucky because I got chance to study pangolins’ miraculous behavior like climbing the cage, caring for their babies and feeding them. During one week of intense observation and close proximity with the pangolins,
I could deeply feel the innocent beauty of such harmless creature.
One day when I sat with a piece of boiled egg in my hand, the mother pangolin gently came towards me and took the egg piece from my hand. I felt so touched. Pangolins spend most of their time trying to burrow/dig and climb wherever possible. Due to such peculiar behavior, it was not possible to keep pangolins in captivity for long. We safely released the pangolin pair in their natural habitat with permission from Central Zoo and in coordination with Taudolchhap Community Forest User Group, journalists, security personals and locals.
Since 2008, seven pangolins have been rescued and released safely to their natural habitat. We have also constructed artificial water reservoir for the pangolins in their habitat in Taudolchhap after realising there is a lack of water sources there. Now they are protected as invaluable property of Taudolchhap Community Forest, Bhaktapur.
The community has also kept the slogan “Conservation of Pangolin is the identity of our Community Forest”.
Tulshi started working on pangolin research and conservation in 2007. While working on the literature review for her thesis, she found pangolin research was very limited. She began researching deeper in the literature and out in the field and completed her thesis research on “Status, distribution, behavior and conservation of pangolins in private and community forests of Balthali in Karve, Nepal” in 2008 and 2009.
She is currently working as President of the Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation (SMCRF) where she is developing pangolin monitoring protocol and conducting a nationwide pangolin survey. Her team plans to carry out further ecological research on pangolins, capacity building, training and conservation awareness as well as a monitoring program at a national level for long term conservation of pangolins in Nepal.