A few months back, Dr Mark Ofua rescued a baby white-bellied pangolin from Lagos Nigeria.
You see Neal the pangolin, who was bred illegally in captivity, was likely to die without any assistance, so Dr Ofua rushed to help him.
“I quickly drove the 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the marketplace because I realized his chances were already slim. 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.”
He was born in captivity to bushmeat trades.
“The traders were most willing to hand him over to me because he was only a burden to them,” he added.
Pangolins are valued for their meat and scales, making them the most trafficked animal in the world.
The white-bellied pangolin especially, and because of this, the species is listed as endangered.
Dr Ofua took Neal straight to the SaintMarks Animal Hospital and Shelter where he warmed him up and put him on a formula to help build his strength.
The teeny tiny pangolin found comfort with his caregivers:
“He is a very playful lad who is still learning to ‘pangolin,’” Dr 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!”
Typically, pangolins are shy and reserved, but Neal loves to play with his caregivers.
He loves to give them “baths” with his tongue, this is important as it is step one to learning how to properly use his special tongue to forage for ants.
“I hope to release him to the SaintMarks pangolin rehabilitation center once he is of age and able to forage for himself accordingly,” said Dr Ofua. “The center is in a protected forest, and he hopefully will live the rest of his days there.”
“Pangolorum” is the first of its kind site that will serve as a ‘soft release’ area for rescued pangolins who are in the process of being reintroduced in the wild, just like Neal, when he’s ready.
This center has been funded by WildAid, an organization centered around reducing the consumption of wildlife products globally.
Dr Ofua hopes that Neal will be able to go back into the wild and live in peace one day down the line.
“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.”