Dead Namibian pangolin pup pic shows horror of this cruel trade

2016-10-06 18:30
Picture: Rare & Endangered Species Trust

Picture: Rare & Endangered Species Trust

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Harare - A tiny pangolin curled up in the palm of a hand. Dead.

This is the heart-wrenching picture that shows the horror of pangolin poaching in southern Africa, where a CITES meeting in Johannesburg resolved last week to ban the trade in all eight species of this shy nocturnal creature.

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Pangolin champions and conservationists across the region and beyond rejoiced. But for this baby, taken from poachers in Namibia, it was too late.

The pup's mother was rescued less than a week ago, said Maria Diekmann, the founder of the Rare and Endangered Species Trust (REST) in Otjiwarongo in the central-north of Namibia.

When Diekmann opened the metal trunk the mother was being kept in, she found this dead pup too. It would have been four or five days old, she told News24.

Well-known for her conservation work with Cape Griffon vultures, Diekmann says REST has also been involved in pangolin rescues and rehabilitation for nearly 13 years, though more intensively for the last four. She estimates that about 35 pangolins have passed through her hands. 

The anger over this cruel trade does not abate with each rescue. 

As she opened the trunk, noticing how terribly hot it was inside and the totally unsuitable rotten vegetables and sour pap that had been left for the pangolins to eat (pangolins' favourite food is ants) her frustration surged again.

'I was shocked'

She said: "Who puts two animals in a sealed locked trunk and drives for hours with them in the boot of a car in this hot sun? "I was shocked, then so terribly sad I had not managed [to save the pup]. And then so angry," she said.

Pangolins are trafficked for their scales and meat, mainly to fuel the Asian trade. 

The pup's mother is now doing well, Diekmann says. On Wednesday she was released with a tracker and was likely to be out all night.

She will be tracked daily for the next five days.

"Then hopefully she will move to a huge farm further from town," Diekmann said.

On average REST manages to intercept two trafficked mother pangolins with pups per year. Sadly, "most are born premature due to the stress of capture and holding by poachers. They don't make it," she says.

There are happier endings. "Honey Bun", a pup rescued with her mother last year, is still with REST.

"She loves her tummy rubbed. She walks for three to four hours daily foraging for her own food. The two times she got away from her walker, she returned home on her own that evening," Diekmann said. "She's amazing."

Pangolins are notorious escape artists and Diekmann is planning to build a new enclosure for the rescues to stay during rehabilitation, funds permitting.

Diekmann says no-one has been reported arrested in this latest case.

The Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe, where pangolin poaching is a big problem, reported last month that at least 81 pangolin traffickers had been caught since the beginning of the year. 

Read more on:    namibia  |  southern africa

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