Do you know what the endangered Pangolin is? Did you know that it is the most endangered mammal on the planet? Neither did I, until I met Lisa Hywood.
You ever seen a Pangolin? I sure hadn’t!
What a privilege to see them in action and to meet the people who have made huge strides to save them from extinction.
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The Endangered Pangolin is in Good Hands
Because of modern technology Lisa and I connected on the internet a few years back regarding a wildlife issue, and now we were finally going to meet in person.
Not far from the edge of town in Harare Zimbabwe a former homestead on a hill is home to the Tikki Hywood Trust and numerous wildlife. The center is a unique place giving life and spreading hope to more than the wildlife who finds temporary sanctuary there.
A newly rescued Pangolin, two Serval cats, three Bat Eared Fox, a playful Otter, several Hedgehogs, two Civets, an owl and numerous others are being cared for and monitored. The center kitchen has a fridge and a freezer stocked with … well, whatever all these various species eat.
The number of residents ebbs and flows as some are released and others arrive. A few, like the Otter, who came unable to walk with an unexplained back injury can never be released and find a permanent safe haven here. The Otter regained the ability to walk, run and swim and has a good life going on daily walks with Lisa as well enjoying her “aqua therapy” in the swimming pool.
Lisa and Ellen are a perfect duo for the work they do. Lisa, the Founder of the Tikki Hywood Trust, is a vivacious, let’s figure-it-out, get it done, and always focused on ‘what’s best for wildlife’ person.Ellen, who joined Lisa nine years ago, is the quieter one, the zoologist who brings a wealth of knowledge and the needed scientific element to their wildlife conservation work.
Did you know that until recently we didn’t know how long a Pangolin’s tongue is? Or why it’s almost impossible to keep a Pangolin in captivity?
It’s the day after Lisa’s return from participating at a conference in the UK on wildlife trafficking. She chats about this work group and that organization and what was accomplished… and it’s not until we ask directly that we realize just how influential Lisa and Ellen really are in the global effort to protect the Pangolin from extinction.
What started as a project to save the Pangolin in Zimbabwe has grown to the Tikki Hywood Trust being ‘the’ authority on Pangolins. While we are chatting on the patio Lisa gets a call, “Sorry I must take this,” she says excusing herself. After a few minutes she returns with a smile on her face. A court date was set for another apprehended poacher. We come to find out that Lisa and Ellen work closely with legislative officials tightening the regulations, assuring laws are in favor of wildlife, and enforced to the maximum degree. Currently 65 Pangolin poachers are serving nine year jail terms.
Lisa pulls out this booklet she and Ellen compiled to educate police officers, rangers and others regarding the laws in a very simple manner. It contains simple ‘if you do this with that this will happen’. Basically spelling out the law regarding procession of specific living or dead animals and birds in Zimbabwe and the legal consequences. This has been well received by legal professionals and those in the field. Why? It helps them do their job, it makes them look competent and it empowers them to be successful.
By working together with, instead of opposing officials and government staff, Lisa and Ellen have become that link that enables a cooperative effort for the common good. One thing is very clear, Lisa is all for the wildlife. Everything she does, recommends, advocates and lobbies for is driven by doing what is right for wildlife. The sanctuary is not open to the public. There is no commercial side to the Tikki Hywood Trust, the focus is purely to save the Pangolin and other lesser known yet endangered or threatened species.
It’s time to see the Pangolin. Every day at 2pm the Pangolin minders weigh their charges. Each Pangolin in rehabilitation has a personal minder who works with him/her in preparation for release.
Between 2 and 6 pm every day the Pangolin are taken for a walk to find food. Pangolin eat ants and termites… lots of them, every day, and they want them fresh and wild. This picky eater is very difficult to keep in captivity because they don’t want ants simply put in a dish in front of them.
We drive to the feeding area, a hillside with scrub trees and rocks. Each minder takes his Pangolin and lays him/her over his shoulder. Apparently that keeps them calm as it reminds them of riding on their mother’s back. The Pangolin are let loose and off they go in search of ants with their minder close behind. At times a minder will use his little pick axe to open a termite mound, but most of the time they follow and observe. The Pangolin, walking only on their back feet, front ones curled up under them, with nose close to the ground, poking here and poking there make their way through the sparse grasses and rocks. They move swiftly, almost urgently.
The Pangolin I’m following finds an ant hill and opens it up with her sharp front claws. Her long tongue moves fast flinging the ants right into her stomach. The ants crawl over her face, she rubs it with her front leg then plunges her head back into the mound. With the startled ants still crawling everywhere she moves on. I’m surprised. Ellen tells me a Pangolin will never eat every ant or every ant egg she finds in a mound. Pangolin are good conservationists, they never eradicate their prey.
We move around the hillside with these almost prehistoric looking creatures. It feels almost unreal to be part of their lives for a bit, knowing that for these nine animals a second chance of living wild awaits them. And because of Lisa and Ellen’s tenacity and relentless work educating and staying close to law enforcement there is hope for their future.
What can you do to help the Pangolin?
Please don’t buy or use endangered Pangolin scales or body parts, please don’t destroy their habitat… please help keep them alive and wild… share this and donate if you can.
[Currently we are helping get more of their important materials printed]
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