WATCH | A first as rescued pangolin Ally gives birth in Limpopo

In a first, an African pangolin has successfully giving birth after being retrieved out of the illegal wildlife trade and being released back into the wild.
In a first, an African pangolin has successfully giving birth after being retrieved out of the illegal wildlife trade and being released back into the wild.
Image: Robert Bradley/123RF

A rescued female pangolin has increased the endangered species rate by birthing a pup in the wild.

According to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital (JWVH), the Temminck's pangolin, named Ally, was rescued from the illegal trade in an intelligence-driven operation by the police's endangered species unit in April in Limpopo.

Ally was transported to Polokwane, where she was stabilised and examined by JWVH's Dr Karin Lourens. .

During an abdominal ultrasound, it was discovered that Ally was pregnant. The hospital said pregnant pangolins are very rarely seen by researchers and vets, and there are no studies or documentation on the stages of development of pangolin foetuses.

“Because of this, the doctors had no way to determine the age of the foetus, but they could detect a normal, regular heartbeat. Once Ally was stabilised, Lourens transported her back to a secure location in Johannesburg,” said JWVH.

Once at a secure location, Ally could begin to recover both mentally and physically from her trauma.

“The news of her pregnancy was both happy and sad for the staff at the hospital as a new life is always wonderful, but the risk of Ally aborting due to stress was great,” said JWVH.

On May 13, once Ally was  fully recovered and had gained sufficient weight, she was transported to her selected release site in the Limpopo Valley by the African Pangolin Working Group.

Speaking to TimesLIVE, Dr Lourens said the hospital went back and forth about releasing Ally into the wild.

"Ally is the first pregnant pangolin we treated and we battled about when to release her because we didn’t want to do it too early or too late. We wanted her to settle in the area so she could give birth without any stress," she said. 

JWVH said a few weeks later the pangolin group's release team placed camera traps to monitor Ally outside her favourite burrows. The camera traps were ideally to monitor Ally without causing any distress which could affect her pregnancy.

“It was in one of these recordings that we noticed her newborn pup. This is the first time we have a record of an African pangolin successfully giving birth after being retrieved out of the illegal wildlife trade and being released back into the wild. We are a coalition of proud aunts and uncles, with this first in our history,” said JWVH.

BREAKING NEWS: A mature female Temminck’s pangolin was retrieved out of the illegal trade by the South African Police...

Posted by Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital on Sunday, September 6, 2020

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