In February, Dr. Mark Ofua of Nigeria heard about a baby pangolin that was born in captivity to wildlife traders. It turned out to be very weak and sickly because its mother gave birth to it in poor conditions. The sellers ended up abandoning the weak cub to its fate because it was a burden to them.
“I quickly drove the 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the marketplace because I realized his chances were already slim,” Ofua told The Dodo. “He was born to a mother weakened by the stress of captivity, with no food or water for days, even weeks. He was already hypoglycemic and cold when I found him. The traders were most willing to hand him over to me because he was only a burden to them,” he added.
Ofua immediately went out to rescue the poor thing. It turned out to be a very special specimen, an endangered white-bellied pangolin. The baby was in extremely sad condition, and the doctor was worried about its health, so he immediately took it to his rescue center.
At the rescue center, the baby’s health was restored. The staff stayed with the pangolin for days and nights to get him back on his feet as quickly as possible, and soon he said “thank you” to them. The baby, named Neal, is very affectionate to all the caretakers – he likes to lightly “kiss” them with his tongue as a sign of love and gratitude.
“He is a very playful lad who is still learning to ‘pangolin,’” Ofua said. “He very much likes to seek out his caregivers and nuzzle on them for comfort. He recognizes very easily his feeding blanket and bottle as he very much loves his milk!”
After Neal’s recovery, they plan to move him to a sanctuary where he will live in a spacious enclosure and be cared for as well. Ofua and his team hope that the pangolins will soon be able to live peacefully in the wild – without danger or threat to their lives.
“To better protect them, we must embark on a full-scale educational program for the entire community on the need to protect [pangolins], while encouraging the government to step up to the duty of protecting these endangered species,” Ofua said.