SINGAPORE - A baby Sunda pangolin that was found weak, hungry and abandoned on Upper Thomson Road two months ago is now thriving under the care of vets at the Night Safari.
It is a victory for the wildlife park as the endangered species generally does not do well under human care.
The four-month-old pangolin has grown from 776g to 1.1kg. It will join the seven Sunda pangolins at an exhibit in the Night Safari once it becomes independent and starts on its captive diet of minced beef, ants' eggs, mealworms and insectivore supplements.
But hand-raising the scaly mammal, which only has a 50 per cent chance of survival under human care, was no easy task.
Soon after it was found, vets at the Wildlife Reserve Singapore's (WRS) rescued wildlife centre faced their first and biggest challenge in feeding the baby. Initially, it rejected kitten milk replacer, a substitute for its mother's milk. It was also weaning off milk onto a diet of ants and termites, and the change in diet caused intestinal issues, so vets had to provide it with round-the-clock care.
But the pangolin proved resilient. It now drinks kitten milk replacer twice daily, relishes ants' eggs and is being eased into a specialised diet that the adult pangolins in the park also take.
To encourage its natural behaviour and help it exercise its keen sense of smell and strong claws, the young pangolin is taken for walks every morning and evening.
Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, WRS's chief life sciences officer, said: "Successfully raising a Sunda pangolin from such a young age is a real achievement. This critically endangered species has notoriously low survival rates under human care, and this experience has given us invaluable knowledge on how to care for the species."
Globally, all eight species of pangolins are threatened with extinction as a result of unsustainable illegal trade. In Singapore, the Sunda pangolin is threatened by habitat loss and motor vehicle accidents.
WRS is funding ecological and genetic studies of this species. Visitors can learn more about the plight of the dwindling species, its history and the situation the creatures face in the wild when the Night Safari begins its new keeper interaction cum feeding programme in mid-May.