From rescue to release – the journey of an oprhaned pangolin

2 May 2023


A few months ago, you helped rescue an orphaned pangopup in the tropical forests of Central African Republic. Our Rescue & Care team reports on what happened next.

A pangolin close up showing its head and front of its body

Last summer, Born Free adopters helped Sangha Pangolin Project, an organisation we support in Central African Republic, rescue a baby white-bellied pangolin (or ‘pangopup’) which had been found alone. Weighing only 300g, our friends knew caring for the infant was going to be a round-the-clock job, for many months, before he would be ready to be set free.

Head shot of rescue and care officer Flo Blackbourn

Flo Blackbourn, Rescue & Care Officer

Rearing pangolins is extremely difficult and, as with nurturing most orphaned mammals, can be a full-time, 24 hours-a-day venture, not least regular bottle-feeds of a special milk formula. With the help of an experienced veterinarian, who joined the team specially, the team successfully reared the pangolin – named ‘Nguindolo’ (‘King of the Forest Spirit’) in a Born Free supporter poll. This included several difficult spells when Nguindolo became ill – not unusual for mammals rescued at a young age as they are so vulnerable, but thankfully he came out the other side a healthy pangolin.

By December 2022, Nguindolo had been weaned from milk feeds to termites and ants and was in the routine of going to the forest to forage for these insects each night, with help from his Ba’aka carers – locally employed tribespeople. He gradually became more independent, going out alone to feed for a few hours in the evening and then again before dawn, as pangolins are primarily nocturnal. He would be weighed before and after feeding sessions to ensure he had been successful in his foraging.

Then, in mid-January 2023 his sleeping box was found empty, and he was not seen returning to it again. It can be worrying not knowing the location of an animal which has been hand-reared but, with the forest heavily protected by local people, and with no poorly pangolins having been found, we can assume Nguindolo had begun to live truly independently – which is precisely the aim of rehabilitation

In early March 2023, Co-Founder & Head of Animal Care Tamar Cassidy saw signs of pangolin presence in the forest and then saw a white-bellied pangolin nearby to where she was standing. It is quite possible this was Nguindolo, free and wild at last.

Rescue & Care Officer Flo Blackbourn says “It seems Nguindolo is now a wild pangolin, which is such an amazing achievement by the team who reared him. Pangolins are famously difficult to rear, but his team of carers clearly did a remarkable job. The team conserves the forest as well, so we are happy he is in a safe area. If we hear about any more potential sightings we will let you know.”

Take a look at this footage recorded of Nguindolo the pangolin, when he was learning to forage under the supervision of his carers:

You can help rescue and protect pangolins when you adopt today: