A rare baby pangolin was born early Thursday morning at the Prague Zoo. According to the zoo’s director Pavel Bobek it is the first pangolin to be born in Europe.
“Just before 4 o’clock this morning, a Chinese pangolin female Run Hou Tang gave birth to a „pangopup“. This is the first pangolin born in Europe. It weighs 135 grams. However, it is important to add that the following days may be critical,” wrote on Instagram the Prague Zoo.
The zoo acquired the pair of pangolins last April from the Taipei Zoo thanks to a partnership agreement between Prague and the Taiwanese capital.
There are eight species of pangolins. Some of them live in Asia, others in Africa. In traditional Chinese medicine, the scales that protect their bodies are said to have a healing effect.
Pangolins are unique among mammals because of their scales, which are made of keratin, the stuff of hair and fingernails. They live on a diet of ants and termites—hence their nickname “scaly anteater.”
The scales are their major defense mechanism; when faced with danger, they curl up in an immobile, hard ball. Sadly, that also makes them easy for hunters and poachers to catch.
Pangolins have long been on the menu for people in Asia and Africa. According to a 2018 study, 400,000 to 2.7 million pangolins are hunted annually in the forests of six Central African countries for bushmeat.
Demand for pangolin scales seems to be surging, particularly in China and Vietnam, where they are believed to cure ailments ranging from poor circulation and skin diseases to asthma.
With Asian species in sharp decline, poachers are increasingly turning to Africa for scales, adding to the bushmeat toll.
The only time pangolins spend time together is when they mate and bear young. Some pangolin fathers will stay in the den until the single offspring is independent. Babies are born with soft scales that harden after two days, but they will ride on their mothers’ tails until they’re weaned at about three months.
They reach sexual maturity at about two years old.