The Pangolin Diaries – Part 2
Following Part 1 of our pangolin diaries we started the story of pangolin survivor Rampfy – the first of four pangolins whose rehabilitation will be sponsored by The Boucher Legacy.
Now in part 2 of our story Rampfy continues to get healthier and more playful before being released back into the wild. Alexis Kriel, Director of the African Pangolin Working Group, continues the heartwarming story of Rampfy the pangolin:
Rampfy goes to Johannesburg
When Rampfy was 4kg, he was transferred from Hoedspruit to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital – a wildlife facility that specialises in the veterinary treatment and rehabilitation of confiscated pangolins, in collaboration with the African Pangolin Working Group. He would be in the care of the African Pangolin Working Group’s rehabilitation specialist, Nicci Wright. Volunteers who are regular “pangolin walkers” fitted into a 4 to 8-hour rotation for shepherding Rampfy at a secret location with a glut of ants in winter and summer. Rampfy’s charm was a continued delight and everyone that came in contact with him at the veterinary hospital, were intrigued with his sweetness, his innocence and the ancient mysterious quality of a species that has been present on the planet for 85 million years. In the beginning, Rampfy had to be steered to ant nests. The walkers turned over rocks to expose deep clusters of pugnacious ants that congregated around the opening to the vast underground corridors of ant colonies that are known to traverse the ground for many miles. They would gently guide the pup’s nose into a pool of ants to stimulate his senses and for teaching him where ants were to be found.
Rampfy surprises everyone with his games
Whoever was involved with Rampfy’s hand-rearing watched with fascination how he made himself understood. He was a strong little character and like all mammals he loved to play. He would roll in mud, covering himself with it, kicking his teddy bear feet into the air and then slapping his tail towards his head, he’d ball up. He loved being tickled, like any little puppy, he’d lie on his back and you could play tickle games with him where he’d squirm away, almost giggling. It was delightful and unexpected. One day he realised he could ball up and roll down a hill.
Over time, Rampfy became so sure of himself and his newfound skills that he’d turn his back on the volunteers and sniff out his prey without assistance and would be happy feasting on ants for many hours as is a pangolin’s main activity in the wild.
One day Mark Boucher – the legend – came to see Rampfy. Mark is famous for being an ex-Proteas cricket star, he is a dedicated conservationist and founder of The Boucher Legacy. Mark was moved by the plight of this little pangolin and pledged to help in the rehabilitation and release of pangolins that were confiscated from the illegal trade. It was this chance meeting that has led to us telling this story, and to the start of the donation and relationship between The Boucher Legacy and the African Pangolin Working Group.
Rampfy gets a taste of freedom
As he grew, the time approached when Rampfy would be ready to go into a “soft-release programme” for his slow introduction back to his natural habitat. But Rampfy wanted to be a baby for as long as possible. He wouldn’t settle down until he’d had his bottle and he dosed off happily when he was being held and gently rocked.
The African Pangolin Working Group along with the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital are world leaders in pangolin care and they have established that the optimal time for releasing a pangolin pup is when they were over 6.5kg’s and are in good physical condition and are able to feed independently. The pangolin pup also needs to be big enough to attach a telemetry unit to a scale in order for ongoing observation to be done – for up to a year.
When Rampfy was 6kg’s, it became obvious that he couldn’t make any further progress within the limitations of his carefully managed rehabilitation at the veterinary hospital. He was strong and confident and had been successfully weaned off his bottle. By this stage, everyone was attached to him – they knew all his quirks and idiosyncrasies and were relying on a good outcome for this very special young pangolin, who was nearing a time when he would have been weaned from his mother and surviving well on his own.
Zululand gets its pangolins back
A perfect place was found for Rampfy on a private game farm in Zululand. There were rangers who would dedicate themselves to him and it was richly imbued with ants and termites. It was important that while pangolins had gone extinct in that area, Rampfy was the third pangolin to be re-introduced into the area – a world first for pangolin conservation. Nicci Wright headed off on a 7-hour drive towards a lush landscape with Rampfy safely stored in a transport box in the back of the car. He was on his way home, back to the wild. The Zululand pangolin team are besotted with pangolins – they took to Rampfy like ants to honey. It is a sweet sight to see our small pangolin in the big hands of the expert South African men and women, who look to his needs, while he looks off into the distance towards his future as a safe pangolin – wild – as all pangolins should be.
Read more about the plight of the pangolin.