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A rescued baby Pangolin

Updated on January 3, 2017

A baby scaly anteater or pangolin

Soon to be extinct if not protected.
Soon to be extinct if not protected.

or Palawan scaly anteater

This is the story of how I came to learn about the indigenous Palawan pangolin also known as the Palawan Scaly anteater. I had heard of anteaters but not scaly anteaters until a villager gave our caretaker one, who then gave it to me to care for. I had no idea what to do with it or feed it.

Our caretaker and his young high school senior brother-in-law had brought a huge mud termite mound for it to feed on it's first night here, which it did. The second evening they harvested a bowl of termite pupae but it refused them. It also refused milk of any kind in any dispenser or bowl.

I researched online and discovered that the babies ride on the mother's tail up to 4 months of age. We approximated that it might be 2 months old. The second night I sat with it in our 14' X 12' (feet) and let it cling to my forearm for comfort. I worried for it as it had not eaten that night. On the third day we presented it again with a bowl of young termites and it turned away and crawled down where the cement of the deck floor met with the dirt. It began clawing and licking at something under the deck base. Soon thousands of ants began to crawl all over it's body and we realized it was going for the eggs and young ants. From then on, with the aid of that young high school volunteer, and our caretaker Jhun have let it forage on our 2 hectares (2.25 acres approx.) and our immediate neighboring farmland owners have let the pangolin eat all the termites and ants it wants.

A few days after we brought Balin in to take care of, a Chinese ship was discovered stuck on Tubatahha reefs carrying 10,00 kilos of dean pangolins. I have since found out that this poor creature is one of the most sought after in the illegal wildlife trade for it's meat and scales!

In all of the Philippines, the scaly anteater is found only on the island of Palawan and if fast disappearing. When this pangolin is big and strong enough, we will release him into the wild and hope for the best. It seems no place is safe here anymore. There is obviously a very well organized ring of syndicated poachers on this island.

On June 15, 2013, little Balin got out of his cage. He has not been seen since. He got out two days prior and found his way back. Unfortunately this is not the safest village for him to roam free. I only pray he is still free and not captured and eaten by the locals or poached for the illegal wildlife trade. I miss him so much. He was so gentle. Bless you sweet Balin, may you live as long in the wild as you can.

Baby pangolin getting cuddles
Baby pangolin getting cuddles

Pangolins are nocturnal with special diets

A challenge to feed

When we first got Balin, he would eat from the mud termite mounds we harvested for him. Then he would refuse our offerings. I found him eating the ants crawling up the leg of a cage stand, and so decided to put him outside and let him feed on his own. Late in the day, every day after that, we would just follow in around the property and into the night until he was sated. He would then crawl up our leg and let us bring him to the den we made for him.

They have a long tongue to lap up termites and ants. Their only defense is to try and run and that doesn't work, then they will curl up into a protective ball. Their bodies, except stomachs, and a bit of skin by the snout area are covered in thick spiny scales. A very odd creature indeed.

They are mammals and give birth from one to two babies at a time and not every year apparently. Sadly, not enough to keep up with the rate of their ultimate demise from poachers and a local penchant for their meat, although less prevalent.

Scaly anteaters aka pangolins, can be found in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand. They even have them in Africa where I have been getting some good advice from the founder of an NGO called Tikki Hywood Trust. This wonderful woman is Lisa Hywood. She has rescued pangolins there and always has good, practical advice for me.

Not much is known about it's habits since they are nocturnal. They are also highly endangered and one of the most poached creatures where they exist all over the planet.

Baby pangolin - needs comforting

Baby pangolin
Baby pangolin

Baby pangolins ride on their mothers' tails for up to 4 months. Although not wanting it to bond to humans, we felt it's needs early on over rode that for a short while.

It seems to have worked as it is still going strong at just a little over 2 months with us. Only his immediate caregivers hold it most of the time when they take it to feed but it still remembers my smell and if I am nearby he will crawl onto my forearm for comfort.

Pangolins-The Weirdest Creature on National Geographic

More photos of the rescued Palawan pangolin - Please do not buy pangolin meat or scales. They are gentle creatures.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I think this baby pangolin was only 2 months old when he was given to us to raise. It's mom was killed by poachers.The pangolin almost disappears in the bamboo grove. We had to follow him as he would forage. He tilled the earth and mulched is as he foraged.One adult pangolin can eat millions of ants and termites per year. They mulch and till the hard ground as they forage.This baby pangolin needed comforting when it arrived. It missed the touch of it's mother.Pangolins do not have teeth. They have a long tongue that they insert into termite mounts or ant hills.Thousand of pangolins are killed for their meat and scales for the Chinese market every month!
I think this baby pangolin was only 2 months old when he was given to us to raise. It's mom was killed by poachers.
I think this baby pangolin was only 2 months old when he was given to us to raise. It's mom was killed by poachers.
The pangolin almost disappears in the bamboo grove. We had to follow him as he would forage. He tilled the earth and mulched is as he foraged.
The pangolin almost disappears in the bamboo grove. We had to follow him as he would forage. He tilled the earth and mulched is as he foraged.
One adult pangolin can eat millions of ants and termites per year. They mulch and till the hard ground as they forage.
One adult pangolin can eat millions of ants and termites per year. They mulch and till the hard ground as they forage.
This baby pangolin needed comforting when it arrived. It missed the touch of it's mother.
This baby pangolin needed comforting when it arrived. It missed the touch of it's mother.
Pangolins do not have teeth. They have a long tongue that they insert into termite mounts or ant hills.
Pangolins do not have teeth. They have a long tongue that they insert into termite mounts or ant hills.
Thousand of pangolins are killed for their meat and scales for the Chinese market every month!
Thousand of pangolins are killed for their meat and scales for the Chinese market every month!

Why pangolins are important

The little scaly anteater - likes termites

Baby pangolin on mud termite mound.
Baby pangolin on mud termite mound.

This is the first night it came to us. The boys brought in a large mud termite mound for it to dig on. They had to help it break through the cement like chamber. It was not very strong. One adult pangolin can eat up to 70 million termites and ants annually each. They are nature's natural pest control. In the Philippines they are found only on the island of Palawan. In Palawan they call this mammal a balintong, so we have named it Balin, it is a young male.

When it has grown and is stronger, with the help of a couple of NGO's it will be fitted with a radio transmitter so it can be studied and watched after it is released back into the wild.

Love the Pangolin-not eat it!

Foraging - It almost disappears.

Pangolin feeding on ant pupae in a bamboo grove.
Pangolin feeding on ant pupae in a bamboo grove.

We are fortunate to have many places that ants like. Balin likes to claw at base of roots of the stalks in our bamboo grove. He finds 3 different types of ants. Some tinier than a pinhead; some black and normal sized, some red. When they crawl over it's body it doesn't seem to bother him. Pangolins have flaps they can close in their ears so the ants don't get in there. When it has eaten enough, it will crawl back to his keepers legs or forearms when offered.

The first time we saw it licking at ants - and drinking lots of water.

This is the day we saw it begin to lick at ant in our animal enclosure. It gave us the idea to take it out foraging on its own to survive since it would not eat any of the termites or ants we harvested and put into bowls for it. This little guy is a survivor. It has to put up with our talking and singing myna bird that also lives in the enclosure in another cage with it. You can hear it singing in the background.

Most endangered species - the Palawan scaly anteater

Baby Palawan Scaly anteater foraging.
Baby Palawan Scaly anteater foraging.

These mammals grow up to 2 feet long with the tail a third as long again as the body. When threatened they curl up into a ball making them easy pickings for poachers. Early in April 2013 a few days after this baby was given to us to raise, a Chinese vessel was stranded on the famous and protected Tubatahha Reefs. On board was 10,000 kilos of packaged pangolins with the scales already removed. A couple of weeks later 23 more were found on board another boat with 22 alive.

Most are bound for China to fulfill their desire for exotic meat which they also say has aphrodisiac properties and the scales are ground up as traditional Chinese medicines as well. Although I can find no scientific evidence of the efficacy of said ground up pangolin scales. The scales are made up of keratin, just like our fingernails.

The baby pangolin we are raising is the most gentle creature I have ever raised, how anyone can take a knife and slit their throats and eat them is beyond me.

Recently I even saw an AD for pangolin skin purses!! Please do not buy such items.

© 2013 Diana J. Limjoco

Please feel free to leave us your comments - or suggestions

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    • SBPI Inc profile image

      SBPI Inc 4 years ago

      That is one cute little fella. Great lens,

      Glad you were thereto help. Hope others learn to do the same.

      Jonathan.

    • Diana888 profile image
      Author

      Diana J. Limjoco 4 years ago from Puerto Princesa, Palawan

      @Wednesday-Elf: Thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

    • Diana888 profile image
      Author

      Diana J. Limjoco 4 years ago from Puerto Princesa, Palawan

      @RinchenChodron: Thanks for taking the time to comment. These creatures are highly endangered, yet so very gentle. I am doing what I can.

    • Diana888 profile image
      Author

      Diana J. Limjoco 4 years ago from Puerto Princesa, Palawan

      @RinchenChodron: Thanks for taking the time to comment. These creatures are highly endangered, yet so very gentle. I am doing what I can.

    • Diana888 profile image
      Author

      Diana J. Limjoco 4 years ago from Puerto Princesa, Palawan

      @DebMartin: Thanks for commenting..it makes me sick too what humans do to animals.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      Oh my, that little guy is adorable. I am so sick of hearing about animals being killed for some property (scales, tusks, meat, fur, gallbladder, etc.) they possess. It saddens me that some humans have such disregard for the life of other species.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      This is a fascinating tale! Loved your photos too! I hope you can find a foundation who preserves them so they survive!

    • Diana888 profile image
      Author

      Diana J. Limjoco 4 years ago from Puerto Princesa, Palawan

      @clevergirlname: Thanks for commenting on my pangolin lens. I am sorry it made you cry. You must have a tender heart. It also makes me cry what people all over the world do to wild animals everywhere.

    • Diana888 profile image
      Author

      Diana J. Limjoco 4 years ago from Puerto Princesa, Palawan

      @Wednesday-Elf: Thanks for reading about our baby pangolin.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 4 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Very interesting to read the background of pangolins and the little one you rescued. Great pictures!

    • clevergirlname profile image

      clevergirlname 4 years ago

      That is just about the cutest thing ever. Your story made me cry for the animals.

    • profile image

      Sweetwater_Creek 4 years ago

      You've always been so good with animals. Keep up the good work.

    • profile image

      helenlimjoco 4 years ago

      It's so adorable and good for you for taking care of the poor wildlife in your area. I am proud of you...mom

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