Her Excellency, Ambassador Šiška

For many years I had a wish, which I rather did not want to tell anybody about. It seemed so immodest and unrealistic to me.

The wish was to get pangolins to our zoo, and also to live to see their baby and watch it how rides on its mother’s tail. This week my wish came true. After coming back from Africa, where I already was on tenterhooks, I went to see the morning weighing of our pangolin baby female Šiška (Cone). After the weighing ended and David Vala returned Šiška to the exhibit, she climbed on her mother’s tail for a while. This was the moment I took this photo. I think I will have it framed as a keepsake.

Even just getting the pangolins to Prague was a great success; after all, we are one of the only two zoos in Europe which has them. We owe them to the great reputation of our zoo as well as the effort of then Mayor of Prague Zdeněk Hřib during his negotiations in Taiwan. Our current breeding of the Taiwanese pangolin couple brough from Taipei Zoo last year is the result of the work of our keepers, particularly of the abovementioned David, but also of all who created favourable conditions for them in our zoo. The first pangolin baby, bred in Europe, is an enormous success of our keepers, the veterinary Roman Vodička and last but not least, of our “friends on the phone” at Taipei Zoo. Šiška is already eleven weeks old, she weighs 870 grams, and not only does she ride on her mother’s tail, but she started tasting the special formula which we prepare for her parents. Nevertheless, I must point that it is too early to declare victory, we can consider her reared only when she stops drinking mother’s milk, i.e., around the turn of July and August. But we have already come a long way.

I began to wish for pangolins some ten years ago, when I had seen in Sub-Saharan Africa how they were massively poached and how the trade in their scales was increasing. When I began writing about them and how threatened they were, only a few people knew what kind of animals they were. This has changed a somewhat since then, but only thanks to our “Prague” pangolins and especially Šiška has the wider public learned about these fascinating mammals. Šiška riding Tang’s tail is with no exaggeration the ambassador of pangolins living in the wild and she helps us to work on their conservation.