One of the biggest privileges up to date has got to be having the opportunity to help the Pangolin species. The opportunity to assist on rescues and the humbling releases of this prehistoric yet incredibly cute animal.
We never quite know what call out we will get, as we start off each day, at the the sanctuary. It is like a giant mystery box filled with so many things: happiness, sadness, trauma, success, failure, heartbreak, and heartwarming moments. It is endless, but none the less, what we wake up for every morning.
What was to come on this particular day, I was totally unprepared for but something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I received a call from the Bulawayo National Park office. They had rescued a pangolin from a wildlife trafficking case and from visual observation she did not look well and would we be able to assist? On arrival at the offices I could smell her before I even saw her ( at this stage gender had not been determined.) Looking down into a make shift cage, there she lay, motionless, eyes dull and surrounded by cabbage leaves- soon to discover this is what the perpetrators had been trying to feed her not even knowing what pangolins eat. Assisted by my right hand man, Khumbulani , off to the vet we raced!
Upon arrival we were given first class treatment, as we always are with emergency cases. The vet knew immediately she was in a bad way, severely dehydrated, malnourished and at the end of her line. Her feet were burnt raw from her own urine that had accumulated in the bottom of her jail cell, proving she had been kept for a very long time in there! Emergency treatment started with the help and guidance of Lisa and the Tikki Hywood Trust. A drip was needed to help get her energy levels up and hydrate her. Uncurling her, in order to to insert a drip for vital rehydration, and laying her on her back a flush of water came gushing out of her urethra. Taking a sample of this the vet found traces of blood, confirming things were not going well for this girl, our hearts sank. Her organs were failing and we were way too late, almost momentarily after this we started to notice a bulge form at her lower abdomen and then it happened, two tiny alien claw like protrusions started coming out!
Khumbulani and I were in shock! We called the vet, whom immediately rushed in and realised she was giving birth. Helping the process along a minuscule, momentarily lifeless, pangolin lay on the table next to its exhausted mother. The vet injected some adrenalin into the baby’s umbilical cord and like a miracle unfolding in front of our eyes, she came to life and took a breath! In shock and awe the tears rolled down my cheeks. I had never seen a pangopup before let alone one that had just been brought back to life.
Mom was too sick to acknowledge her newborn, however we placed the pangopup on my chest to gain body warmth and security. The next step was to get the baby to the Tikki Hywood trust as soon as we could. The baby had a very slim chance of survival without its mother and needed the best care possible. Weighing only 50grams, we knew she was very premature. All we could do was hope and try our best!
The sad truth is not every rescue survives, not every rescue has the luck of being rescued, many don’t make it, many don’t surface, many are never found and die a cruel hard death. As much as I battle with death, I always try to remind myself that in this moment, before a rescued animal passes, they feel our love and compassion. They move on with dignity knowing we care. Both mom and baby never survived this ordeal, but they both taught us so much.
We will never stop fighting for their species as well as every other!