A Mother’s Day Tale

The Ugandan Pangolin Guardians were born in April. These are proud men and woman who want to protect their Ugandan heritage.  This group is made up of men and woman from UWA, (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and the police who are all involved in wildlife protection be it through the courts or on the ground.  In April Tikki Hywood Foundation were fortunate enough to have spent time with these passionate people explaining the need to protect not just pangolin but all wildlife.  Bonds and friendships were formed, and a way forward plotted to continue saving pangolin in Uganda.  Never would we have believed that in such a short time after the training so many rescues take place. 

Conservation is not about anyone person or anyone group – conservation is about coming together from all walks of life with one goal.  When like minded people work together, they can achieve great things.  This story is about one of those great achievements…

On Tuesday, 8th of May 4 white bellied pangolins were rescued from around Uganda. Working with NRCN (Natural Resource Conservation Network), two of pangolin were rescued and two poachers were arrested for illegally selling pangolin on the side of the road near Kampala. The second rescue was another adult pangolin who was rescued with thanks to UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) who received a call from a kind lady who had rescued the pangolin after seeing local people trying to beat it too death.

All three pangolin were named.  We feel that by naming these pangolin we are bringing respect to them and showing other Ugandan’s that each living species has a right to life.  Aiko and Flash were the pangolins confiscated near Kampala, and the poor boy who was beaten we named Jinja.

 Aiko and Flash  
Jinja       
Jinja, his eye is badly damaged 

The three adult pangolin (Aiko, Flash and Jinja) were in good health and we decided that they needed to be released as soon as possible. Their immediate release was organized without delay. When the team arrived at the secure release location, Jinja (the pangolin who had been beaten), seemed weaker than Aiko and Flash, so the UWA team decided to take him into custody for at least 24h till they saw an improvement in his condition, we believe it was bruising from the beating and he needed time to recover. The team handled him with care, fed and gave him water throughout the night and in the early morning the team decided that it was best to release him, as he had become a lot more active. Once released there was not even a glance back at the team whom had assisted in not only his rescue but rehabilitation over the past 36 hours.

Jinja, showing his ‘good side’, just before release

Nothing could have prepared us for the next rescue.  On the 4th May, our youngest pangolin arrived.  Being only a few months old and still dependent on his mother’s milk we were incredibly concerned. This is Uganda’s first baby pangolin rescue.

 Baby Sid

Back in Kampala, the THF pangolin team took care of the baby pangolin, which had now been named Sid. Due to the fact that the pangolin was a baby our concerns were that there was a mother out there who had lost her baby!  The following day UWA got another urgent call about another sighting of a pangolin in the same spot where the baby was recovered. Without hesitation the UWA team traveled to the area.  What are the chances that this adult female pangolin found in the same area could be Sid’s mother?

The female pangolin which showed signs of lactating was recovered and taken to Sid’s location.  Once she had arrived, she was placed in the same box as the baby.  With bated breath, the team waited and just after 20 minutes the baby could be heard suckling from the adult female.  

The bonding between mother and baby had been instant, this was nothing short of a miracle!. It was a life change experience seeing this union of mom and pup. We named the female pangolin Mama Kisa (pronounced “Chisa”) that means “kindness” in Luganda, since she was most definitely a gentle animal and loving mother.

Sid safely back with his mother 
Mama Kisa with her pup Sid 
 Mama Kisa and Sid are free
Photo by Emma Ogik 

After a few more days under observation and care the team were confident that the bond between these two was secure enough to release them. So on, Sunday the 13th of May, which happened to be Mother’s Day, it was decided to release both Mama Kisa and baby Sid.

We started the same procedure as usual and activated the pangolin rescue team. Both baby Sid and Mama Kisa arrived at their secure location on Sunday morning and were released and followed to make sure that baby remained on his mothers back. Everything seemed to be working as planned and both mama and baby entered the dense forest moving deeper and deeper into the foliage until the rangers could no longer see them and they  disappeared.

 Farewell Mama Kisa and Sid

For us in Uganda and the Ugandan Pangolin Guardians nothing could have been a better Mother’s Day gift!  When many countries around the world are celebrating mothers, here in Uganda we were celebrating both mothers and our natural world. From UPG we would like to wish them all a happy life in their new habitat where we hope they can thrive.

Credit to Rebeca Sandoval for the photographs.