The following is a personal account by Woon Tien Wei of his encounter with a critically endangered pangolin – nicknamed 'Mr. Pangolin' – who had to be rescued after running into a busy traffic junction along Ang Mo Kio on 2 July 2016.
It was about 1.10pm on a lazy Saturday afternoon. With my wife, we were sending my sister-in-law and niece back home. There was a sudden commotion when we spotted a critically endangered Sunda Pangolin – commonly known as the Malayan Pangolin – running along the road at the busy traffic light junction between Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 and Ave 6.
‘I think an otter is running on the road,’ my wife, Jennifer, said. As we drove closer towards the traffic light, we were shocked to see a pangolin running on the road divider. We all got really excited, and I put on the hazard light then stopped the van. We tried to get the pangolin off the road and to a safe place.
While trying to save the pangolin, he ran under the vehicle behind us.
The animal then curled around the axle inside one of the wheels. At this point, driving the car would kill the little creature. We spoke to the car owner, Jasmine, and explained the situation to her. She stopped her engine and got out to help.
Subash, who was on his way to the cinema with his family, was in the vehicle right behind and decide to stop and help. Subash's wife called the Animal Concerns Research and Society (ACRES) for help.
Together, we waited for the arrival of the ACRES rescue team. Shortly after, a traffic police officer turned up to investigate the cause of the traffic jam. Upon understanding the situation, he stayed on to help with the rescue efforts.
We were keeping a watch on the pangolin and the traffic, making sure that the cars could see us and the pangolin didn't dash out into the traffic.
'The pangolin was crying and foaming because he was stressed and afraid with all the attention and the unfamiliar environment,' noted Jennifer. 'It is so rare to see such a beautiful creature up close, but it was also sad to see the poor pangolin in such a frightened state.'
At 1.50pm, the ACRES rescue team arrived. With the help of the traffic police officer, the ACRES rescue team, drivers, and passengers, the pangolin was safely removed from the vehicle. Soon after that, the three vehicles were dispersed, and traffic resumed.
It was understood from the rescue team that the pangolin would be placed under observation for a day and medically examined by a vet from the Zoo before being released back into the wild.
On Saturday night, the ACRES rescue team updated us that 'Mr. Pangolin' was given water and doing very well.
The Sunda Pangolins are scaly mammals who feed on ants and termites. They are shy, nocturnal, solitary creatures. They curl up into a ball and may release a foul smell when they feel threatened. They are listed as critically endangered species in the Singapore Red Data Book 2008.
Pangolins in Singapore face the greatest threat from massive habitat loss due to rapid urbanisation. As their forest homes shrink, these slow-moving creatures are often injured or killed by vehicles when they stray off too far onto the roads.
According to National Parks, pangolins are mainly found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Reserve. They are sometimes sighted in residential areas because they stray off nearby forests.
While it remains a mystery as to why 'Mr. Pangolin' was running around on the streets of Ang Mo Kio in broad daylight, kudos to all the good Samaritans who stopped and helped in the rescue efforts.
If you encounter a wild animal in an urban area, call the ACRES Rescue hotline at 9783 7782.