Prague Zoo to receive critically-endangered pangolins from Taiwan

Two critically-endangered Chinese pangolins are headed to Prague Zoo in March, a female and male couple from Taipei Zoo.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 13.11.2021 13:04:00 (updated on 13.11.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

A pair of critically-endangered pangolins will be transported to Prague Zoo from Taiwan in March. The zoo will become one of the just a handful in the world and just the second in Europe to exhibit pangolins, which are the most-trafficked mammal in the world.

The two pangolins are from the Chinese pangolin species, which are one of three species listed as critically-endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature along with the Philippine pangolin and Malayan pangolin. Of the world's eight pangolin species, another three are listed as endangered, and the remaining two threatened.

Announcing the news on his Facebook page, Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek stated that the Chinese pangolins, female Run Hou Tang and male Gun Bao, will arrive from Taipei Zoo in March.

Bobek also revealed that while the necessary groundwork would be completed for the pangolins to be transported this year, the female had just given birth, and could only travel after she had weaned her offspring in about five months.

"When it was clear that everything would be sorted and ready by the end of the year, we hesitated: should we transport the pangolins in winter? Air transport still doesn't work as it did in the pre-covid times, and if there were problems and the pangolins had to wait somewhere in the cold, things could have turned out very badly indeed," Bobek writes.

"However, nature made the decision for us. Run Hou Tang gave birth and will only be able to fly in when she has weaned her pup, i.e., at the start of spring. We hope that everything will work out just as we imagine and that, after the necessary quarantine, we will be able to introduce our pangolins to our visitors."

Bobek notes that while Prague Zoo had exhibited pangolins in the past, they had ultimately died out. As the new couple is breeding, hopes are high for a new generation to also be born at the zoo.

With the new additions, Prague Zoo joins Leipzig Zoo as the only zoos in Europe to exhibit pangolins. They are also among just a small handful in the world to exhibit the critically-endangered Chinese pangolin.

Bobek thanked Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib for his negotiations with counterparts in Taiwan in making the agreement with Taipei Zoo possible.

In order to accommodate the new pangolins, Prague Zoo will also undertake a complex reconstruction of the nocturnal area in the Indonesian Jungle exhibit to create the right environment for them.

In describing the pangolins, Bobek quotes Czech journalist and politician Eduard Grégr writing for the magazine Živa in 1854:

“... a four-legged beast, as long and low as our marten, which, when God gave the animals their clothes, mistakenly donned a fish’s coat, although its scales, unlike those of fish, made of bone- or glass-like substances, are made of hairs stuck together."

The pangolin scales are actually made of keratin, the same material found in human fingernails. Pangolins can roll up into a ball when threatened, protected by their scales, and also emit a skunk-like spray.

Often mistaken for reptiles due to their unique scaly appearance, pangolins have been threatened in recent years due to both deforestation and their use in Chinese medicine, and conservation efforts have intensified.

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