Prague Zoo announces birth of first ever baby pangolin in Europe

Baby pangolin

Last year, Prague zoo received a pair of critically-endangered pangolins from Taipei Zoo as part of an animal exchange program between the two cities. Now, less than a year after their arrival, the zoo announced the birth of a baby pangolin, the first ever to be born in Europe. I discussed the news with the zoo’s spokesman, Filip Mašek:

“The baby Chinese pangolin that was born in Prague Zoo is doing well. It was born at night, at around 4 a.m. Its birth weight was about 135 grams, so it is really quite small.

“We have already closed the whole Indonesian Jungle exhibit for visitors because the mother and the baby need to relax; they need silence and they really can’t be disturbed, because the first three to five days after birth are critical, as we were told by Taipei Zoo in Taiwan which already has some experience with pangolins.”

You received the pair of pangolins from Taipei Zoo in April of last year. Did you expect that they would have a baby so soon after their arrival?

“The pair of pangolins that we received from Taipei Zoo is the second pair ever sent to Europe. Only Zoo Leipzig and Prague Zoo are keeping pangolins. So there were big expectations, because the animals are very fragile. They need very specific conditions when kept in captivity.

“The pair that we got, the female Run Gou Tang and the male Guo Bao, already had a baby in Taipei Zoo, so we were hopeful, but no one expected that it would happen so soon. So it is very good news for the zookeepers and I think it is proof of the great work that the zoo keepers in Prague Zoo are doing.”

Photo: Petr Hamerník,  ZOO Praha

Why is it so difficult to breed pangolins in captivity?

“There are two main factors that make it really hard to keep pangolins in captivity. First of all, the food. They eat a very specific nutritious mesh made out of many different ingredients, one of them being the bee larvae.

“It is a special recipe that we got from Taipei Zoo and it is actually secret. It is know-how that they have acquired over many decades and now they shared it with us.

“And the second thing is the housing conditions. They need very specific humidity of the air. They need a very specific temperature, just like they would have in natural conditions. They are very fragile and very sensitive to changes, so that makes it very hard to keep them in captivity.”

Finally, the pangolin was born in the early hours of Thursday. If everything goes well, when will the public get the chance to see it?

“The Indonesian Jungle Pavilion where we keep the pangolins is currently closed and it will be definitely closed for a few more days or maybe weeks.

“I am pretty positive that people will be able to see the little pangolin in a matter of weeks, but I can’t tell you if it will be the end of February or rather in March.”

Photo: Petr Hamerník,  ZOO Praha