Stievie's Story - The Wounded Warrior

In a recent Bushwarriors’  interview at FreeMe’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa, Nicci Wright talks about the cruel fate of pangolins caught for use in ‘Muti’, i.e. traditional African Bush Medicine. The interview describes the rescue and their rehabilitation of one pangolin and the need for follow-up monitoring after release.

During a full moon, wildlife poaching increases. One Namibian victim of the August 13th 2011 moon was a pangolin illegally caught for the Muti trade. Luckily, three nights later the animal was rescued in Katutura by a good Samaritan, but found to be in a very poor condition. About ten scales showed fresh raw edges where they had been chipped off for use by traditional healers to create concoctions for their patients. The healer keeps the poor animal alive, chipping more scales every time the patient needs another concoction, however pangolins are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity and eventually starve to death. In this case the pangolin suffering this barbaric treatment was recovered with ten scales chipped off, one missing and deep wounds as well, perhaps from a spear used to extract it from its burrow, or from wire used to restrain it which had cut under its scales. Its wounds were already crawling with maggots. Pangolins are not easy to treat but it was not too severely starved. It was judged to have a reasonable chance if released when its wounds were healing before it lost too much weight. Liz Komen of Narrec describes more in her article for The Namibian of 18 August.

One missing scale with others chipped off
and deep wound
Stievie released with RF tag

(Photos in this blog post were taken by  Bruno Nebe)

This pangolin, named ‘Stievie’ (i.e. the wounded warrior) was taken By Liz Komen to the Mundulea sanctuary, tagged with an RF transmitter and released on August 19th in an area known to be suitable for pangolins’ ants. It was tracked from a distance to minimize further stresses for about 20 days afterwards over 15km. Stievie seemed healthily recovering and finally settled for a while in a deep burrow about 5km from the point of release, perhaps where there was vacant territory. However, after some days of concern when it did not apparently move, it was unfortunately found to have died in the burrow. (The RF tag was recovered for reuse.) As much of its remains were eaten by a badger, cause of death is difficult to ascertain: whether it was predated, died of internal injuries, its trauma, poor eating or of the gastric ulcers that are sometimes found in poorly-kept pangolins.  All the project team is saddened by its fate.

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