Since last year, we’ve fitted satellite tags to 16 of the pangolins we’ve released back into the wild. This has allowed us to keep track of all these pangolins’ movements – except one: Jumbo.

Weighing in at 14kg when he was brought to Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Jumbo is the biggest pangolin we’ve cared for. After a week of health checks and rehabilitation, we were able to release Jumbo back into the wild.

Almost as soon as he was released, he began moving fairly large distances each day. Just six days after release, however, we noticed his satellite unit became stationary. We feared the worst – male pangolins can be particularly susceptible to stress and don’t always survive once rescued from the conditions traffickers subject them to.

Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammal, accounting for as much as 20% of all illegal wildlife trade.

We put together a ground search for Jumbo using the satellite tag’s position – but when we arrived at the location of his last transmission, we found nothing.

A couple of weeks later we received another ping from the satellite tag so we raced to the location, metal detector at the ready, determined to locate the tag and, hopefully, Jumbo. After a few hours of methodical searching, we located the satellite tag and guessed, because there were no bolts with it, that it must have fallen off Jumbo. Our hopes that Jumbo was still alive were buoyed.

In addition to the satellite tag, Jumbo can also be tracked with what we call a ‘very high frequency’ (VHF) signal. But we haven’t had any luck – until now! While in a helicopter near Jumbo’s last known location, we picked up a faint signal.

After an hour of searching from the air, we landed in a remote area and searched by foot for four hours through rugged terrain. We narrowed down the signal to what seemed like a burrow used by a pangolin – but it revealed no signs of life. The next day, however, we returned – and found Jumbo at home!

Fortunately, the bolt from the old satellite unit was still attached, so we crawled into the burrow and fitted the tag again – even more securely this time!

We’re delighted not only to have solved the mystery of Jumbo’s disappearance but also to have found him alive and well – and now pushing 17kg! We’ll be keeping a close eye on him over the coming months.

Please consider supporting our work with a donation as we rescue, rehabilitate and release these endangered animals back into the wild – where they belong.


While they look and act a lot like anteaters and armadillos, pangolins are more closely related to bears, cats and dogs.

Our work rescuing pangolins and combatting their illegal trade is supported by Fondation Segré, Woodtiger Fund, Pangolin Crisis Fund and Sallyann Garner. As with all the pangolins we care for, we appreciate the technical support and advice given to us by the Tikki Hywood Foundation.

Report pangolin crime

Help protect pangolins by anonymously notifying the authorities if you see pangolins for sale at markets or on restaurant menus, or if you know of anyone capturing or possessing pangolins.

To report suspicious activity, call 0994 942240 or email info@wildlife.gov.mw