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Pangolin saved from jaws of death

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IN SAFE CUSTODY: The injured pangolin (left) looks for food at an animal shelter. The unusually long tongue (right) helps it to eat ants.
IN SAFE CUSTODY: The injured pangolin (left) looks for food at an animal shelter. The unusually long tongue (right) helps it to eat ants.

Govind D. Belgaumkar

A farmer, who is also animal lover, saved it from a dog

MANGALORE: An all out effort is on in Dakshina Kannada District to save a pangolin – a rarely sighted animal. It is declared as an endangered animal under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Chased by a dog near the temple town of Kukke Subramanya in Sullia taluk, the well-grown pangolin – locally known as “Chippu Handi” — came running to the farm of Tirumaleshwaraiah of Gobbaladka village.

Dr. Tirumaleshwaraiah, who loves animals, chased away the dog and let the scared pangolin take shelter in his farmhouse. The animal, which usually curls up into a ball when threatened, has a dog bite on its leg.

Realising that it required immediate medical attention, Dr. Tirumaleshwaraiah sent it to Puttur. It is now under the care of Seshavana Wildlife Research and Rehabilitation Centre, approved by the Anival Welfare Board of Government of India.

Ravindranath Aital, who has been treating animals at the centre, has applied the ointment of his own preparation to the injured part. He has fed it with ants last night. Feeding it has been easy because you can find a lot of ants on tree branches.

When The Hindu visited the centre, the animal was taking rest. Dr. Aital said he could not allow anyone disturb it as it needed complete rest. “I am not allowing even the Forest Department people to see it,” he said.

It would be active only at night, he said. He said it was his duty to ensure that animals got best care possible so that he could return them to their natural habitat at the earliest.

Dr. Aital, who is known for saving the lives of animals in this region and has given shelter to 14 snakes, including three pythons, hoped that the pangolin would be alright in a week. “I will call you when he can freely walk. You can photograph him then,” he said.

What has pleased him is that the animal which could hardly run faster than a dog had survived the attack. Pangolin, known as “Epanji” or “Alanka” in Tulu, is sought for its “deligious meat. People asphyxiate it by making a fire around its cave and kill it for food.

“We used to see many pangolins earlier in the Western Ghats. The animal has disappeared because people leave no chance to hunt it,” Dr. Aital regretted.

Pangolins have elongated tongues that can be up to 40 cm (16 inches). They eat only live ants. Their tongue extends into their abdominal cavity not only up to throat as is the case with most animals.

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