A wild Sunda pangolin, one of the world’s most threatened mammals, was recently rescued by villagers in Southern Thailand with help from ZSL’s Thailand team.
Pangolins, or ‘scaly anteaters’, are the world’s most poached and trafficked wild mammal. In fact, it’s thought that more than a million of them have been snatched from the wild in the past decade. Native to Southeast Asia, Sunda pangolins are heavily trafficked from countries like Thailand to China and Vietnam, where their meat is eaten as a luxury dish and scales used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Last month a young pangolin wandered into a village close to Khlong Nakha Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected area in Southern Thailand, which is situated along the illegal wildlife trade route from Malaysia to China. According to rangers and villagers, Khlong Nakha’s own pangolin population has severely declined in recent years, most likely due to opportunistic hunting for the illegal trade. Local communities practice Islam and don’t eat animals that crawl, such as pangolins. But they can be sold to traders for the equivalent of a year’s wages. This is what makes this story so remarkable.
On Saturday 24th April the ZSL Thailand team were conducting community surveys in the villages around Khlong Nakha Wildlife Sanctuary (Ranong province) when Aroon Sukjitdee, ZSL Thailand’s Community Outreach Project Manager, received a phone call from one of the local villagers.
The villager, knowing that the team was studying pangolins, called to inform Aroon that a pangolin had been found in the village. The pangolin, a young male of about 1.3 kg, was found in the garden of one of the houses in the village. The son of the householder didn’t want the pangolin to be sold into the illegal wildlife trade and persuaded his father to call the ZSL Thailand team to request their help to release the animal.
Our team immediately went to the village and checked the pangolin’s condition to decide whether the animal should be released in the forest or transferred to a rehabilitation centre.
Luckily the pangolin was deemed to be healthy enough for an immediate release. It was rehydrated and fed with red ants. The superintendent of Khlong Nakha Wildlife Sanctuary was called that same evening and allowed the release of the pangolin in the forest behind one of the ranger stations. At around 10pm the pangolin was released.
It was only six months ago that the first pangolin was sighted by the ZSL Thailand team and now one has been successfully rescued and released in the same wildlife sanctuary. This shows the success of the ecological surveys by the team and also the excellent relationships the outreach team has built with local communities, which are so important for conservation success.
ZSL’s Pangolin Conservation Initiative, established in 2015 with support from Save Our Species and Fondation Segré, aims to find out more about the status of Khlong Nakha’s pangolins and support the Thai authorities to combat the illegal trade in pangolins. In October 2015, ZSL started conducting ecological and community surveys around the protected area, as well as supporting anti-poaching patrols and law enforcement personnel.
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