Good News on World Pangolin Day

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  18. 02. 2023

I have written a lot about World Pangolin Day, which this year falls on this Saturday; and mostly these were sad texts on mass poaching of these amazing creatures and trafficking their scales. However, this time, of course, I dedicate my column to the Chinese pangolin female, which was born in Prague Zoo on Thursday, February 2. Although we have gone through tough times with her, fortunately there are more and more reasons for optimism.

Yesterday's weighing of female pangolin pup, who was born at the Prague Zoo on February 2. Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo Yesterday's weighing of female pangolin pup, who was born at the Prague Zoo on February 2. Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo

Our initial joy from the birth of the pangolin baby was unfortunately over the following few days replaced by worries about its fate. Not only it did not gain weight during the first and second, but even during the third, fourth and fifth day, but it was even slowly losing it. Although it was active and showed the will to live and his mother Run Hou Tang took excellent care of it, the mother obviously did not have enough mother’s milk. Therefore, after consultations with experts from Taipei Zoo, where we got the pangolins from, the veterinary Roman Vodička together with the keepers David Vala and Denisa Zběhlíková started artificial feeding of the baby from Monday, February 6.

Although this was a necessary step, it carried a risk that the bond between the baby and the mother would be disturbed and also that the baby would eventually refuse to accept natural food. So, we had to proceed very carefully. First, David Vala lured Tang out of her artificial burrow with a bowl of a nice smelling food. Then, Denisa Zběhlíková took the baby out of the leaves in the burrow. This procedure was already well mastered for the purpose of regularly weighing the baby. On the Monday evening, February 6, however, the baby received for the first time from Roman Vodička one millilitre of diluted cat’s milk substitute.

The artificial feeding, which at the beginning took place every morning and evening, resulted in a slight increase of baby’s weight. “Cone gained weight”, I announced happily on social networks on Wednesday, February 8, but we were not out of the woods yet. The gain was not sufficient, therefore after consultations with colleagues in Taipei, which were happening in the most impossible hours due to different time zones, we increased the dose of the substitute milk, and we started feeding the baby three times a day. At the same time the female Tang was stimulated to produce more mother’s milk.

At the turn of last and this week things finally turned for the better. Step by step it became clear that the stimulation helped Tang, and all started going as it should. From one feeding to the next the baby gained weight and was visibly growing. This week we could decrease the doses of substitute milk and the frequency of feeding.

Our “Little Cone” (be careful, this is not the name of the baby, just a temporary nickname!) develops well and makes us happy, even if the care of her takes a lot out of the abovementioned colleagues. However, we have only overcome the first difficulties and there are still more to come. Hopefully everything will end well…