SINGAPORE: An abandoned pangolin rescued by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) almost two years ago was released back into the wild on Tuesday (Sep 18), becoming Singapore's first ever case of a baby pangolin being hand-reared and rehabilitated for release.
Named after the Pokemon character Sandshrew, the pangolin was found weak, hungry and alone in the Upper Thomson area, and sent to the Wildlife Health and Research Centre in January 2017.
At the time of its rescue, the 1.5-month-old pangolin weighed 522 grams and would not have survived in the wild as it was still dependent on his mother.
After it was rescued, Sandshrew's carers bottle-fed it with milk replacer until it could be weaned. When it was old enough to forage, its carers would look for natural food sources so that Sandshrew could learn how to eat live prey and get used to the occasional insect bite.
Almost two years on, Sandshrew has grown to 6.4kg.
On Tuesday, it was taken by WRS and the National Parks Board (NParks) to an undisclosed location, where it will remain for about 10 days in an enclosure. The gate of the enclosure will be left open for it to leave voluntarily.
A radio tracking device attached to one of Sandshrew’s scales will allow its movements in the wild to be monitored. It will also be watched 24 hours a day to see how it is adapting to life in the wild.
"Being the first of its kind, the delicate operation could open up opportunities to develop protocols for future rescue and rehabilitation efforts for the species as a whole," WRS and NParks said in a release.
The update on Sandshrew's rehabilitation was provided by Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who also launched a national conservation and strategy action plan for Sunda Pangolin conservation in Singapore for the next 50 years.
The Sunda pangolin is critically endangered in the region – and is the world’s most widely trafficked mammal.
Among the five goals in the plan include gathering and sharing information on the animal, ensuring a self-supporting population of pangolins and establishing wildlife-conscious urban planning policies and measures.
“In 2009, Night Safari Singapore became the first zoological institution to display the Sunda Pangolin and later to breed the species under human care but this alone is not enough. To save this iconic animal, we need to work together on a comprehensive and coordinated plan,” said Mr Mike Barclay, Group CEO of Mandai Park Holdings.
Mr Desmond Lee added: "I hope we put this plan earnestly into action and also involve many Singaporeans in wildlife monitoring, bring young children on board through citizen science.
"Allow them to use technology to help participate in wildlife count and use the Sunda Pangolin and other wildlife as icons that we can find in our school textbooks and pre-school material and allow them to get a better feel of wildlife that inhabit this island."