Teeny Tiny Pangolin Won’t Stop Kissing His Rescuers

He loves them so much ❤️

In February, Dr. Mark Ofua heard of a baby white-bellied pangolin who needed his help in Epe, Lagos, Nigeria — so he immediately hopped in the car.

Neal was born in captivity to bushmeat traders, and without Ofua’s assistance, he wouldn’t survive.

Rescued baby pangolin in Africa
Facebook/SaintMark’s Animal Hospital

“I quickly drove the 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the marketplace because I realized his chances were already slim,” Ofua told The Dodo. “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.”

“The traders were most willing to hand him over to me because he was only a burden to them,” he added.

WildAid

Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animal, prized for their meat and unique scales. The white-bellied pangolin, also known as the tree pangolin, is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Back at SaintMarks Animal Hospital and Shelter, Ofua warmed Neal up and started him on formula to build up his strength. Had Neal been raised in the wild, the tiny pangolin would’ve spent his days riding around on his mother’s tail as she foraged for ants and termites.

Instead, he’s found comfort with his kind caregivers.

“He is a very playful lad who is still learning to ‘pangolin,’” 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!”

While pangolins are typically shy and secretive, Neal loves to play with his caregivers and give them “baths” with his long, muscular tongue. This is the first step in learning how to use his special tongue to forage for ants in the forest.

“I hope to release him to the SaintMarks pangolin rehabilitation center once he is of age and able to forage for himself accordingly,” Ofua said. “The center is in a protected forest, and he hopefully will live the rest of his days there.”

WildAid, an organization focused on reducing global consumption of wildlife products and increasing local support for conservation efforts, has funded the building of a “pangolorum” — the first of its kind in West Africa. This area will serve as the soft release site for rescued pangolins being reintroduced into the wild — including Neal when he’s ready.

WildAid

Ofua hopes that one day, pangolins like Neal will be able to live in the wild in peace. But there’s still a long way to go.

“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,” Ofua said.

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