Releasing Pangolins in Vietnam
Updated: Feb 4, 2019
by: Louise Fletcher
I’m lucky enough to have experience of pangolins both in captivity and in the wild and have some incredibly fond memories. My first experiences were working with The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP) monitoring the release of rehabilitated Sunda pangolins in Vietnam.
One of the most exciting aspects is watching the animals when they are first reintroduced into the wild, the incessant sniffing of the new smells of the forest and then, once happy, they amble back to the forest and off to find food.
It was always fun when, every morning, we would locate where the animal was sleeping using the noise emitted from their radio tag. Often we would get within 10m when, surrounded by trees, we then had to search for where the animal was: curled up in a trunk; hiding in the branches; curled up in the roots of a tree; and at times hidden completely from our view.
One particular morning we tracked a pangolin to find her sleeping up a tree; luckily we heard movement in the tree tops, and, as we looked up, we saw a pangolin in the branches. 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.
Waiting in our hammocks, all night we kept hearing movements in the tree above us. Then, at 1:30 in the morning, a pangolin climbed down the trunk. We caught it and looked prepared to re-attach a transmitter to the female we had released a few nights ago, yet it was not a female we had - to our amazement we had a wild male pangolin! We got to work attaching a transmitter straight away, so we got data from our first wild individual.
What is even more interesting is that it appears the wild male and the female we released were in the same tree, together. Now, we will never know for sure what happened between those two, up in that tree, but it could have led 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.
Having worked with The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program in Vietnam for eighteen months radio tracking rehabilitated Sunda Pangolins, Louise developed a deep passion for their conservation and has gone on to support organisations in Brunei, Sumatra and Kalimantan. More recently Louise has used her passion for drawing and painting to illustrate an ecologically sound story about the pangolin, where the profits go to support NGOs working on pangolin conservation. She is currently working with Singapore Zoo, Ecology Dogs UK and Enviro-Dogs UK on a project to train dogs to support the conservation of Sunda pangolin. She hopes this will enable researchers to develop a methodology for surveying and monitoring populations of this species. Check out A Pangolin Tale to see Louise's beautiful illustrations!