Maputo - A young pangolin rescued from poachers in northern Mozambique last year has struck out on his own, and his carers couldn't be more delighted.
"Pea" went off into the Niassa Reserve on Tuesday, able to dig, feed and look after himself after nine months in care, the Niassa Lion Project said in a post to Facebook.
A scout named Matequenya, who'd spent much of the past months walking with the scaly anteater, and teaching him how to dig, "raced into camp in the night to say Pea had walked off and they couldn't find him", the post read.
Judging him ready for an independent life, Pea's carers were apparently planning to release him soon and had hoped to fit him with a transmitter to be able to better track the endangered animal in this vast park.
But it was not to be. Pea took his own decision and walked off before a device could be fitted.
Still, apart from the initial shock of realising he was gone, Pea's carers are clearly pleased.
"It was in a great spot far away. We wish him well, a second chance and hope we never see him again," the post reads.
Pea and his mother were taken from poachers in Nampula province back in October 2015, according to a previous post by Zimbabwe conservationist Lisa Hywood of the Tikki Hywood Trust, which has a long history of caring for rescued pangolins and was involved in advising the Niassa Lion Project in its care for Pea.
Mother and son pangolin were flown to the Niassa Reserve. Set up in 1954, the park is the largest protected area in Mozambique. Sadly Pea's mother died soon afterwards, probably of starvation.
But Pea thrived, not least because of the dedication of those looking after him. Initially weighing just 3kg when he was rescued, his last recorded weight was 7.08kg.
The Niassa Lion Project said had Matequenya taken Pea for a walk lasting up to six hours every night, initially showing him where to dig. Pangolins burrow to find ants and termites, using their long sticky tongues to catch and eat their food. Often Pea walked until he fell asleep and then the scout would bring him home to sleep for the day.
Pangolins are reported to be the most trafficked animal in southern Africa, sold for their scales which are used in traditional and Asian medicine. Neighbouring Zimbabwe is coming down hard on pangolin poachers.
The Tikki Hywood Trust said on Thursday in a Facebook post that Pea's story was "truly awesome".
- News 24