Protecting the pangolin


Abdul Manan May 03, 2010

LAHORE: A large, scaly pangolin living a quiet life in a local graveyard was discovered by Calvary Ground residents on Monday.

The exposed and threatened mammal had tucked his face under his long tail and had rolled up into a tight ball when Rescue 1122 workers found him. A handful of men and children gathered to watch rescue workers carry away the frightened and injured animal. A rescue spokesman confirmed that the residents had injured the ‘unusual’ animal by either poking or kicking it. He stated that the pangolin was handed over to the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) where it was being treated.

A UVAS official also stated that the animal was recovering and regaining health. The nocturnal mammal is also known as a scaly anteater, feeds on small insects and sleeps during the day. The problem solving section of its brain is highly-developed and used primarily to find food but the pangolin can also be a remarkable escape artist in captivity. Uzma Khan, the director of biochemistry for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), stated that the animal is harmless to humans.

She stated that there is unawareness about the animal, which is primarily why it is mistreated and often killed. Khan recalled, “In 2008 I was shocked to hear that educated students of the Lahore University of Management Science had collectively killed a pangolin. In 2009 again I was informed that a pangolin was found in Wapda Town. When I got to the location I discovered that the people were beating it with sticks trying to kill it. People feel threatened mostly because they are not familiar with the animal and assume that it is a threat.”

“I felt so bad that I brought the animal to my house, treated it and then released it at Changa Manga. The mammal is very useful for trees as it eats termites. The Lahore Zoo has also failed to maintain them because they require a very rich, timely diet of insects. Fortunately it is not endangered as it is not normally active during the day,” she added. “The government should display pictures and educate people about pangolins. They are found through the strip stretching from the Salt Range to Lahore.

The wildlife department should also play its part and promote the protection of the mammal. The zoology departments of various institutions need to be urged to initiate projects to approximate the exact numbers of pangolins,” stated Khan. Dr Zafar Nasrullah, the director general of the wild life department stated, “Under the Wildlife Act it is prohibited to capture, injure, hunt or harm certain animals including the pangolin. The mammal found on Sunday will be released in the Safari Park after it recovers”.

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