Paddy the Pangolin: The rescue and rehabilitation of an African White-bellied Pangolin in Sierra Leone

Submitted by Tim Hudson, ex Fish Hoek High School student and UCT graduate , now working on contract in Sierra Leone as a geologist

This story tells a tale of how a baby Pangolin has brought people from around the world to work together in order to save the youngster. This is the power of mankind.

Sierra Leone is a beautiful country, luscious and rich in tropical vegetation and densely populated with rainforests. Such conditions are perfect for a variety of weird and wonderful life forms, many of whom are unfamiliar to the majority of the world. This lack of awareness and many of our lifestyles become a threat to many species of flora and fauna, which are all part of our eco-system contributing greatly to a well sustained and balanced world. One such being is the African White-bellied Pangolin.

In late September, a colleague on a gold exploration project had bought a baby Pangolin from a local child while on an expedition in a forest of the Kono District, Sierra Leone. The baby Pangolin was to be used as “chop” (meaning food in the local language Krio) to satisfy a local family. Little did the baby Pangolin know that this was his turning point. From this very moment, a series of events unfolded leading up to his currently healthy up-bringing and joyous life.

The moment baby Pangolin was brought to the camp site he won the hearts of many. Unusually cute and tiny he was extremely shy at first, not familiar with any of the hands that touched his scaly body. As with most people, we had little idea as to what kind of creature he was, and attempts were made to find out his nature and diet in order to keep him healthy until he will be released. The only intake he would consume the very first day was water, before heading to bed all curled up in a little ball. Pictures and statuses soon hit the social networks, and by morning news had travelled far and wide.

The next morning, we became concerned about ways to keep the baby Pangolin nourished. Help was desperately needed, as the youngster would not be open to any food other than water. Through a positive turn of events contact was made with the wonderful Lisa Hywood, founder of the Tikki Hywood Trust, who enthusiastically served us with exceptional insight and an extraordinary love for baby Pangolin all the way from Harare; Zimbabwe. Baby Pangolin, although resistant at first, enjoyed a quick-fix meal of cow’s milk while a more suitable milk formula was arranged from Johannesburg; South Africa. A friend of ours in South Africa, Chris von der Heyden, kindly went about purchasing the specialised milk formula while Bruno Bvirakare, a colleague returning to site, offered to bring the milk to us in Sierra Leone.

In the meantime, after the many conversations and networking that had occurred over the various countries, baby Pangolin was deserving of a worthy name. Thus, the youngster came to be known as Paddy the Pangolin, a name that he made his own.

After receiving hassles from transporting the specialised milk across borders, it had reached us at the camp site a week after Paddy had arrived. With extreme excitement Paddy indulged in his now most favourite meal, resulting in a noticeable increase in strength and growth. Over the next few days he had not only developed in size but also in character. He puts up a real fuss when being cleaned after splattering his way through his milk at feeding times. He recently hates being woken up especially when his all warm and cosy in bed during the day (being nocturnal in nature). And after all his fussing he is quickly soothed by curling himself into a ball between warm hands or any confined space. Such a playful and yet so calm being and somewhat mysterious in nature, with scientists knowing very little about his species behaviour.

Paddy has become an integral part of our lives, with affectionate love for him growing tremendously amongst our colleagues on site as well as many new and old friends around the world. Paddy ventures into the nearby forest daily with us in order to keep him familiarised with his natural environment. ‘Parenting’ has proven to be educational, somewhat challenging and most importantly rewarding for us both. Paddy will be raised to a point at which he will be fit to survive in the wild on his own and will be released into a protected part of the forest where he can continue living his natural lifestyle.

We are most grateful to Lisa Hywood and the Tikki Hywood Trust for being Paddy’s mother from across the continent. Her help and advice has proven invaluable in the upbringing of Paddy. Her passion and understanding of animal rescue will continue to be treasured as Paddy grows. With the continued support and well wishes from all his fans from around the world, Paddy the Pangolin will grow from strength to strength.

See also http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/10/the-african-white-bellied-or-tree-pangolin-phataginus-tricuspis/

Paddy’s developments can be followed on his FB page http://www.facebook.com/paddythepangolin

© Tim Hudson and Kamal Mistry

07 October 2012