What’s involved in feeding the pangolins? What and how much do you need? Describe collecting ant nests? How long does it take?
Newly rescued pangolins often refuse to eat artificial food, therefore, we have to collect live ants from the buffer zone of Cuc Phuong National Park to encourage them to eat, speeding their recovery. Pangolins prefer to eat Weaver Ants and termites.
When we have a lot of new arrivals we need lots of ants so we start collecting ants at 7 am. We may need to travel sometimes up to 80km in order to find what we need. Moving in this mountainous area is not easy therefore most distances are long distance in these parts.
Thư, one of our senior keepers is very good at collecting ants as it often involves climbing trees. Thư is a master tree climber. The tool we use to cut ant nests is like is like a home made branch lopper. It is a large pair of shears connected to a 5-metre-long bamboo rod. We use a pulley attached to a rope to allow us to operate the shears. If the nest is high, Thư or another of the keepers will climb the tree (sometimes as high as 10 metres) and use the lopper. The keeper will cut the nest from a branch, dropping the nest to a person waiting on the ground. We need collect 1 full bags of ants (around 10kg worth) to feed 2-3 new arrived pangolins a day.
Collecting ants is a time consuming business and we don’t have enough staff to have them full-time ant collecting, so we wean the pangolins onto a mix of frozen ant larvae and ground up frozen silk worm larvae. We buy this from Ho Chi Minh City and it is very expensive. It costs USD 10 a week to feed one pangolin.
We feed the pangolins the thawed frozen food from containers (much like an ordinary Tupperware container) which has a stone cap with a hole in it. These containers are often hung from trees in their enclosures, so they can climb for their food- like they would in the wild. We also have artificial termite mounds made from concrete which we sometimes use.