DAN CHALLENDER: That was a quick five years! I remember the second World Pangolin Day back in 2012. We had just been given the go ahead by IUCN to launch the new Species Survival Commission (SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group, and I wondered how big World Pangolin Day would be, especially as it focused on pangolins – back then a group of species that few were very familiar with. How things have changed in the five short years since.
World Pangolin Day, celebrated on the third Saturday of February, has become a chance for everyone to celebrate pangolins and generate support to help secure their conservation. Back in 2012, this involved mostly social media posts on Facebook and Twitter and other platforms. Today, however, it is increasingly the date in the calendar if you’re interested in pangolin conservation and looking to make some noise to generate support for the scaly critters. Last year for example saw celebrations, parties, bake sales, scientific meetings, fundraisers, presentations, and community events in countries ranging from the US and UK to Nepal, Cameroon and Vietnam to name a few. As I write this a few days before 18th February 2017, World Pangolin Day 2017 is shaping up to be the biggest one yet. Even Google has joined in the fun with a multi-day Google Doodle series to celebrate pangolins for Valentine’s Day, the week before World Pangolin Day.
The prolife of pangolins has skyrocketed in the last five years and the species are at last gaining recognition. Pangolins have been broadcast into people’s living rooms through media attention, for example via the BBC, CNN, and the Guardian, and awareness is equally being raised in range states, for instance in Nepal, South Africa, Indonesia and Cameroon. Pangolins are also starting to receive the level of support that is needed to bring about real change, especially in policy arenas, such as CITES, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, where at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Johannesburg in late 2016, all eight pangolin species were uplisted to Appendix I with near unanimous support from the 183 member countries.
Members of the Pangolin SG have been at the forefront of efforts to conserve pangolins: large projects have been initiated by foundations such as Fondation Segré, and there is on-going work within range states, with excellent examples led by Pangolin SG members at the Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife in Vietnam, and MENTOR Progress On Pangolins in Cameroon, a cooperative program hosted by the Zoological Society of London and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Equally, the Pangolin SG continues to support the Parties to CITES through the provision of technical information, and our members, such as those at TRAFFIC continue to show leadership in researching trade. Importantly, the Zoological Society of London continues to be the institutional host of the Pangolin SG and a true champion of pangolins. Indeed, on the evening of 21st February ZSL hosting a scientific event on pangolins.
This sixth World Pangolin Day coincides with the Pangolin SG’s fifth anniversary. The group exists as a voluntary network of experts on pangolins and their conservation, and includes field biologists, veterinarians as well as social scientists, policy experts and inter alia, geneticists, and serves as an advisory body to IUCN. As a group we have seen some conservation wins since 2012, and some of the work of members of the group is highlighted on the above links. Recent blog posts on the IUCN World Conservation Congress and CITES CoP17 also showcase the group’s contributions to these important meetings. However, as we begin the new IUCN quadrennium, which runs from 2017-2020, there is much to be done. All pangolins remain threatened with extinction according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, due primarily to overexploitation from poaching for wildlife trafficking in the animal’s parts and derivatives, and for use at the domestic level.
The Pangolin SG’s global conservation action plan, ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation’, published in 2014, helped to introduce pangolins to people both within and outside the conservation community and created a road map to conserve them. But, given how the conservation landscape has changed for the species since, there is a pressing need to focus on action planning in more detail, such as at the species, regional and national level. Similarly, given increasing research attention on the species, there is a growing body of evidence with which to inform new status assessments on the IUCN Red List. Both of these can be considered immediate priorities for the Pangolin SG. Beyond this planning and assessing is the need to develop and implement actions on the ground, working with a range of government and non-government stakeholders globally. Part of the role of the Pangolin SG will be to provide the evidence base and technical contributions to ensure that support is in place where it is most needed to conserve the world’s scaly anteaters.
As we celebrate World Pangolin Day 2017, we look forward with determination to continuing to develop and implement meaningful actions to conserve pangolins, and to ensuring pangolins are even better off at the end of the next five years.
Dr Dan Challender, Chair, IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group]]>
The end of the calendar year is not just the end of 2016, but it also reflects the end of the IUCN quadrennium (2012-2016). When January begins the new quadrennium (2017-2020) will begin in earnest and there remains much to do to secure the conservation of pangolins. However, 2012-2016 has served the species well in a number of ways, as I explain here, and on this basis there is cause for optimism.
Pangolins are receiving more attention than ever before. Back in 2012, there were a relatively small number of individuals and organisations prioritising pangolin conservation globally. At the start of 2012, there was also no IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group until it was formally (re)-established early that year. However, thanks to a number of actors including range states, other governments and a suite of conservation stakeholders, including various NGOs, and the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, this has changed remarkably. The profile of pangolins has been transformed from little known, almost forgotten species, to one of contending for a spot as flagship species. A large component of this has involved awareness raising. This has come about through various initiatives including the emergence of World Pangolin Day for example, increasing media attention on the species in local, national and international press (e.g. in the Guardian), and initiatives such as United for Wildlife which embraced pangolins as a focal species and included Prince William launching an Angry Birds game “Roll with the Pangolins”.
The species have also been the subject of increasing conservation investment and action. For instance there are a number of on-going pangolin projects around the world, while the last few years has seen the emergence of new projects both in Africa and in Asia (click here to see a project map). These projects range from protecting pangolin strongholds, the rescue and rehabilitation of trade-confiscated pangolins, to genetic, ecological and behavioural research, and research and action to understand the dynamics and drivers of – and address – international trafficking of pangolins.
Pangolins have also received increasing attention in terms of action planning and policy. For example, in 2013, the Pangolin Specialist Group held its first Conservation Conference in Singapore, where members of the group met to re-assess the conservation status of the species for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and which led to the first ever global conservation action plan for the species, Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation. A number of national action plans for pangolins in range states in Africa and Asia are also under development. The species were also subject to increasing attention in CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) between 2012 and 2016, where the Pangolin Specialist Group engaged by providing scientific information to assist Parties in their decision-making. The culmination of this increased focus resulted in all eight species of pangolin being transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I at CITES CoP17 (September 2017), a measure which from early January prohibits international trade in wild-caught pangolins for primarily commercial purposes globally (see recent blog on CITES). Similarly, the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016, adopted a Resolution (Greater Protection needed for all pangolin species), which calls on IUCN members and all conservation stakeholders to take the necessary action to address the threats pangolins face.
The profile, progress, and momentum pangolins have gained, both in 2016, but also in the 2012-2016 period more broadly, are therefore reasons to be positive about the future. However, the main threat facing pangolins globally is overexploitation for illegal, international trade, and local use of the animals as bush meat and in traditional medicines. Such is the scale of the trade that it has been estimated that international trafficking of pangolins has involved >1 million pangolins since the year 2000. This means, as is well understood, that there is a need for multi-faceted solutions to conserve the species and much to be done to ensure solutions are in place. Immediate actions include understanding demand for illegal pangolin products in order to reduce demand among consumers; ensuring law enforcement agencies are adequately informed and are vigilant of pangolin trafficking; determining appropriate methods for monitoring pangolin populations; identifying and verifying pangolin strongholds in order to protect them; engaging local communities in pangolin conservation; and continued action planning and policy engagement. Thus, while progress has been made on pangolins, evidently many challenges remain and the momentum pangolins have gained needs to be maintained to ensure their conservation – something that the Pangolin Specialist Group will begin in earnest in the New Year.]]>
Elisa Panjang, PhD student at Cardiff University and member of the Pangolin Specialist Group provides an update on conservation activities for the Sunda Pangolin in Sabah, Malaysia.
IUCN Red List status and status in Sabah
All eight pangolin species are now considered threatened with extinction, and the IUCN Red List categorizes the Sunda pangolin Manis javanica as Critically Endangered. In Sabah, the Sunda pangolin is listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, meaning any hunting requires a license. Hunting without a license can bring a maximum penalty of five years in jail, a fine of up to RM50,000 (US$12,060), or both. The biggest threat facing pangolins in Sabah is illegal hunting for international trade, involving live animals, meat and scales, while another threat is habitat loss and fragmentation – although the severity of this threat requires further research in Sabah.
The First Sabah Pangolin Conservation Working Group Workshop
On 21 August 2014, the first pangolin workshop was held at the Sabah Wildlife Department Headquarters, Kota Kinabalu. The workshop was attended by various stakeholders from government, research bodies and NGOs to discuss the fate of the Sunda pangolin in Sabah. The output from the workshop was the submission of a cabinet paper to the Director of Sabah Wildlife Department (and to be later reviewed by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah), recommending that the status of the Sunda pangolin is upgraded to Part 1 Schedule 1 of the state’s wildlife act. If followed, this will upgrade the Sunda pangolin to a Totally Protected Species, thereby outlawing all hunting, consumption, possession and sale of pangolin (and any body parts), and carrying a mandatory sentence of five years in jail.
The Sabah Pangolin Conservation Working Group has also managed to work closely with the court members, police forces and honorary wildlife wardens to organize conferences, trainings and workshops. An awareness campaign was organized in 2014 by Danau Girang Field Centre together with Sabah Wildlife Department and other NGOs and sponsored by Lush Cosmetics, targeting the local tour agencies, restaurants, plantation workers and schoolchildren, with the aim of raising awareness of pangolins and the threats they face.
Poaching and trade in Sabah
Trade in pangolins passes through Malaysia, Laos and Vietnam. Sabah Wildlife Department gave recent data concerning the number of pangolin cases that the department dealt with: 2006 (13 cases recorded); 2007 (12); 2008 (3); 2009-2010 (zero); 2011 (2); with no further cases since. According to TRAFFIC (2010), about 22,200 pangolins were killed in Sabah between May 2007 and January 2009 to supply one syndicate, based on information from a log book. The main supply appeared to be from Keningau, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Ranau (April to Dec 2008: 4565kg, 772 individuals). Biologists believed additional pangolins must be coming from other places, and Sabah Wildlife Department have confirmed that some pangolins were coming from other neighboring states/countries, like Sarawak or Kalimantan, with Sabah acting as a collecting station for subsequent export to China. The villagers hunt all kinds of things, including pangolins, and there is lack of education and awareness on endangered species. Hunting used to be a daily activity. Villagers in small groups hunt, and a middleman collects. This is the modus operandi, with pangolins being sold at RM80/kg per animal. The most recent seizure by the authorities happened two months ago in Lahad Datu, where 25 live pangolins were seized, of which 20 pangolins survived and were released.
Research project in Sabah
The title of the project is “Landscape ecology and behavioral response of the Sunda pangolin to habitat fragmentation and degradation in Sabah, Malaysia”. The research is conducted by a Malaysian part time PhD student registered under Cardiff University, and will be based in Danau Girang Field Centre, Kinabatangan, a research and training facility managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department. In this research, the student used a multidisciplinary approach, including sign surveys, camera trapping, satellite telemetry, and community survey to collect ecological information on the Sunda pangolin. The objectives of the research are threefold: to identify habitat suitability and ecological niches for Sunda pangolin; to determine the species home range; and to determine the movements in a fragmented and degraded landscape. Upon completion of the study, the results of the research will be included in a Sunda Pangolin State Action Plan. Aside from research work, the student is also focusing on public education, raising awareness and producing educational materials together with the Sabah Wildlife Department and other organizations in the state.
For more information, please email: email@example.com]]>
Until recently, pangolins were little known, arguably forgotten species, receiving little conservation attention and investment. Their profile has grown enormously over the last five years thanks to efforts from pangolin range states, the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and its members, and other countries and actors.
Poaching of pangolins for international wildlife trafficking is a major threat to the species. It is estimated that since 2000,more than 1 million pangolins have been traded illegally at the international level, which would make them the most trafficked wild mammal in the world. Since 2014, all eight pangolin species are classified as threatened with extinction on The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. The Chinese and Sunda species are now listed as Critically Endangered, the Indian and Philippine pangolins as Endangered, and the four African species as Vulnerable.
Pangolins were one species group hitting the headlines at the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress (Hawai‘i, 1-10 September), where a motion was passed urging greater support for pangolin conservation. This enthusiasm carried over to the 17th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES CoP17), which brought in an international trade ban for all eight pangolin species.
At the CITES conference, a number of Asian and African pangolin range states and other Parties demonstrated leadership in proposing the transfer of all pangolins from Appendix II to Appendix I, the latter including the most endangered CITES-listed animals and plants and prohibits all commercial international trade. The proposals were adopted by CITES Parties, largely by consensus, and will come into effect 90 days after the CoP, meaning that from early January 2017 all pangolins will be listed in Appendix I and international trade in wild-caught pangolins for commercial purposes will be subject to an international trade ban.
A question being posed by some is, what impact will this have given that most trade in pangolins is illegal? It is true that an Appendix I listing will not automatically stop the trafficking of pangolins, but there are some benefits to the above decisions. They should mean that enforcement will be prioritised in some countries, for example China, where confiscations of pangolins will have to be dealt with at a national level as opposed to regional level.
It also means penalties for trafficking pangolins should increase in a number of countries including Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong SAR and the Philippines. And, it will also help simplify regulation by removing confusion caused by zero quotas, with international trade in wild-caught animals for commercial purposes being unambiguously prohibited.
These decisions have hit the headlines around the world and have been celebrated by many. However, while the above benefits should be welcomed, these decisions do not comprise conservation victories. The CITES Parties only include species in Appendix I when they are considered to be threatened with extinction and as a last resort. If anything, these listings more accurately reflect a failure of the Parties and the conservation community collectively in recent decades to address the threats pangolins face.
There are also potential costs to these listings that need to be considered. For instance, will the introduction of an international trade ban lead to increasing prices for pangolin derivatives and higher incentives to poach and traffic the animals, and will this expedite the overexploitation of populations? This is what happened when rhinos were listed in Appendix I in 1977 with the black rhino going locally extinct in at least 18 range states as a result. There is therefore a need to monitor the impact of these listings on markets, trade dynamics and populations. Thankfully, decisions taken at the CITES conference are supportive of such monitoring.
A Resolution on pangolin trade and conservation also adopted at the conference urges all Parties to take a range of measures pursuant to conserving pangolins, including improving law enforcement efforts, ensuring adequate control of any pangolin stockpiles that exist, reducing demand for illegal pangolin specimens, and working with local communities to manage pangolin populations. Two Decisions were also adopted which direct the CITES Secretariat to liaise with ICCWC (the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime) partners and regional law enforcement agencies and ask them to include pangolins in their work programmes; and, subject to funding, prepare a report on the status, trade, stockpile management, demand management and inter alia current captive pangolin populations for the 69th meeting of CITES Standing Committee in 2017.
It is generally well recognised that a suite of multifaceted interventions are necessary to ensure the conservation of pangolins and CITES is one tool that can be used. Importantly, the aforementioned reporting will allow the Parties a first opportunity to evaluate the costs and benefits of the listing decisions made at CoP17 and make recommendations on how to further ensure pro-pangolin conservation outcomes are the result of decisions made in South Africa.]]>
Before each of these events took place however, IUCN’s members, State and non-state collectively, adopted a motion for an IUCN Resolution on greater protection for pangolins. This Resolution urges IUCN members to support proposed actions at CITES CoP17; urges governments to prevent the use of pangolin products from illegal sources through education and strict monitoring; and urges IUCN members, pangolin range states and other stakeholders to support pangolin conservation efforts including through increased protection and law enforcement, conservation research, awareness raising, education, and other actions in order to secure the conservation of pangolins, including through IUCN SSC PangolinSG action planning.
The Resolution also explicitly recognises the efforts of the PangolinSG in the last 4 years on behalf of the world’s 8 pangolin species and highlights the need for multi-faceted solutions to deliver their conservation. As the PangolinSG video hopefully demonstrates, the group is already working on multiple fronts and I’d like to think we are doing some things right and heading in the right direction. I’m also confident others agree following the work of the group being highlighted at various events at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i, including mention by CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon and former SSC Chair Simon Stuart in his Commission report to the IUCN Members Assembly.
The Pangolin Specialist Group was established in 2012 and though we’ve made good progress on ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation’, the apt name for our conservation action plan, there is much to do in the next IUCN quadrennium if we are to take pangolin conservation to scale – that is to catalyse and achieve conservation actions commensurate to mitigating the threats pangolins face globally, primarily overexploitation/illegal trade, and measurably reducing their extinction risk.
With a diverse membership of 100 members from over 25 countries around the world, I’m confident that we will achieve some great things for pangolins in the 2017-2020 quadrennium as we seek to take pangolin conservation to scale. The work begins in earnest next week in Johannesburg, South Africa at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. Pangolins come up in a number of agenda items at the meeting, including proposals to transfer the species from Appendix II to Appendix I, and are the subject of proposed resolutions and decisions. Like in Hawai’I a number of our members will be there and will be working hard to do what they can for the world’s pangolins.
Dan Challender, Co-Chair, IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group]]>
News of the seizure prompted the IUCN Director General, Inger Andersen, to release the following statement:
The seizure by Hong Kong authorities yesterday of a massive illegal 4 tonne shipment of African pangolin scales is symptomatic of the worrying increase in the trafficking to Asia of these iconic species.
Pangolins, or ‘scaly anteaters’, the world’s only truly scaly mammals, are under increasingly severe threat from criminals profiting by supplying demand, particularly from China and Vietnam, where their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are an important ingredient in traditional medicines.
Increasing consumer demand has resulted in an estimated one million pangolins being snatched from the wild and trafficked in the past decade – equivalent to one pangolin every five minutes, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group.
Of growing concern is the emergence of African pangolins being trafficked to Asian markets following steep declines in populations of Asiatic pangolins, especially in China and Southeast Asia.
The latest seizure of 4 tonnes of pangolin scales, in a shipment originating from Cameroon, is estimated to involve between 1,100 and 6,600 African pangolins, which inhabit sub-Saharan Africa and range in size from 2 to 35kg. It is a tribute to the work of the Hong Kong authorities that they were able to identify and stop this shipment.
The haul is estimated to be worth HK$9.8 million (US$1.25 million) on the black market and represents one of the largest ever seizures of African pangolin scales. The amount of illicit profit that can be made from this trade helps explain its alarming growth and is deeply concerning for the future of these species.
IUCN’s SSC Pangolin Specialist Group estimates that since 2012 more than 20,000 kg of scales from African pangolins bound for Asia have been seized either in Africa, Asia or Europe, involving somewhere between 5,000 and 30,000 animals. Sadly, these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.
Little is known about the population status of the four African pangolin species in quantitative terms, but each is classified as threatened with extinction. Their nocturnal and elusive nature makes them difficult to survey and, until recently, they have been largely overlooked by the conservation movement.
It would be an absolute tragedy if we lost pangolins to wildlife trafficking. We urgently need to ensure that we put in place strategies that address the complex drivers of this illegal trade, including scaling up enforcement efforts, improving legislation where necessary, protecting and monitoring strongholds for these species, and involving local communities in these solutions.
For a species which give birth to just one young at a time, the illegal wildlife trade now represents a severe and increasing threat to the survival of pangolins globally.
The IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group published the first ever global conservation action plan for pangolins in 2014, entitled ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation’, but given the growing threats facing the species it is in the process of updating this strategy. It is now calling on Range State governments to assist in its development, endorse its recommendations and commit to concrete action to secure the conservation of pangolins globally.]]>
Two species of pangolin occur in Nepal – the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata). Both species are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List due to a combination of poaching, illegal trade and habitat loss.
Nepal may represent one of the last remaining strongholds for the Chinese pangolin, as well as holding potentially important populations of Indian pangolin. However, despite numerous small scale studies carried out over the past decade, very little is known about the population status of the two species within Nepal.
The Government of Nepal has committed to addressing this knowledge gap through initiating a national pangolin survey to determine the status of the two native species and developing an action plan to protect them.
The April 2016 workshop was an important stepping stone towards achieving these goals. It brought together a wide range of stakeholders, from local pangolin experts, including Pangolin Specialist Group members Tulshi Laxmi Suwal, Prativa Kaspal, Ambika Khatiwda and Carly Waterman, to government officials, scientists and representatives from NGOs and local communities. More than 80 people contributed to the development of a road map for completing the surveys and action plan.
‘The Government of Nepal has an amazing track record of protecting rhinos with zero poaching in three of the last five years’ said Carly Waterman, Programme Officer and Red List Co-ordinator for the Pangolin Specialist Group. ‘I am delighted the government has now turned its attention to pangolins and looks forward to supporting the Government in its efforts to monitor and protect these important species’.
The four Pangolin Specialist Group members play a key role, presenting what was known about the habitat use and threats to Asian pangolins in Nepal (Tulshi), human-pangolin interactions (Prativa), status, distribution and methodologies (Ambika) and global pangolin initiatives (Carly). Following the presentations, there was a lively discussion on monitoring methods, priorities and next steps.
The participants supported stepping up community-based pangolin conservation, since most threats are thought to be happening in human-dominated landscapes outside of protected areas. Seasonal forest fires, excessive use of chemical fertilizer in farmlands, limited awareness among local and regional communities, deforestation, infrastructure development, poaching and illegal trade are all threatening the long term survival of the two species.
One of the key recommendations from the workshop was to collect data on pangolin presence/absence from Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs). There are more than 18,000 CFUGs in Nepal, and collecting data from them on the likely presence of pangolins in their forests will help researchers to better understand the distribution of pangolins within Nepal. More in-depth surveys can then be carried out to identify strongholds in which to prioritise conservation action. Other recommendations included further research on pangolin ecology, genetics, population status, behaviour, human interactions and illegal trade.
‘The national survey is an important step forward’ said Ambika Khatiwada, Conservation Officer with Nepal’s National Trust for Nature Conservation. ‘The next step is targeted conservation action. A two-pronged approach is needed; effective law enforcement is crucial to deter poachers and illegal traders, while sustainable livelihood options and outreach programmes will help to engage local communities in protecting pangolins’.
Prativa Kaspal, Pangolin Researcher and Lecturer at Tribhuwan University, echoed Khatiwada’s sentiments. ‘Both species of pangolin are protected in Nepal, and it’s wonderful to see they are receiving attention at the highest level. Over the past few years I have helped several local communities to create community-based pangolin conservation areas. I’d love to see the government support sustainable livelihood programmes in these areas. Such a commitment would reward the efforts of local people and further strengthen their conservation attitudes and perseverance’.]]>
Despite growing risks of extinction, pangolins have historically attracted little conservation attention. However, in 2008, a TRAFFIC workshop held in Singapore brought the threats to Asian pangolins from illegal trade to an international audience. In the years since, there has been growing momentum in the field of pangolin conservation, including the formation of the African and Singapore Pangolin Working Groups in 2011 and 2014 and the re-establishment of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group in 2012.
In this paper, we review the ways in which the Pangolin Specialist Group membership are contributing to pangolin conservation at local, national and global scales and highlight successes in five key areas:
The combined activities of Pangolin Specialist Group members along with the contributions of key stakeholders and NGOs have set pangolin conservation off to a positive start. However, if we are to secure a future for these unique and fascinating species, it is essential that these efforts are sustained and that we continue to drive forward in our mission to scale up pangolin conservation.
Access the full article here]]>
Local ecological knowledge (LEK) is increasingly seen as an important source of information for conservation. Furthermore, pangolins are now the most heavily trafficked mammals in illegal wildlife trade, and Chinese pangolins (Manis pentadactyla) are Critically Endangered.
With no recent baseline data available to assess status of pangolin populations in China, we conducted community-based interviews across seven protected areas in Hainan, China, to investigate whether LEK can provide novel insights for pangolin conservation. We found that LEK of pangolins remains high in Hainan: “90% of respondents recognize pangolins and can provide supporting information”. Pangolins are likely to survive in all protected areas that were surveyed, as evidenced by recent sightings dating from 2013 to 2015. However, all populations have declined and are now perceived to be of very low abundance: “only 34% of respondents consider pangolins to remain locally present, and these respondents all regard pangolins as rare”. Illegal hunting continues across this region, with pangolin body parts used locally and sold to outsiders. Pangolins are likely to soon become extirpated across Hainan unless effective conservation management plans can be initiated.
We have demonstrated that large-scale LEK surveys can strengthen the evidence-base for informing robust conservation action and management plans for pangolins. Moreover, methods to monitor and assess pangolin status and threats are urgently required across all range states. Our results suggest that large-scale systematic LEK surveys can contribute to this goal. LEK surveys can be inexpensive and relatively rapid to conduct over wide geographic areas in comparison to other methods employed to detect pangolins, and can collect data on sightings, population trends and patterns of exploitation through time rather than only providing an assessment of current conditions. Whilst LEK data must be collected and analysed critically using methods such as those we have employed, to try to minimize or control for potential response inaccuracy and/or biases, this first large-scale LEK survey of pangolins in China has produced landscape-level findings of major importance for prioritizing areas for future pangolin conservation. We recommend that further surveys are conducted regionally and internationally to help inform other regional pangolin conservation action plans. Data sharing can be sensitively managed to avoid disclosure of exact pangolin locations. Whilst there is still an urgent need to develop and strengthen conservation management strategies for pangolins, show-casing pangolin survival and promoting conservation of these incredible animals on Hainan remains possible, and would set an important example at a global scale.
Free full-text version of the article available here until April 23, 2016.]]>
Saturday 20th January 2016 is the fifth World Pangolin Day! This means people across expanding pockets of the globe will be celebrating the eight extant species of pangolins, which are also known as scaly anteaters, and which characteristically roll up into a ball when threatened. If anything like previous years, this will involve the holding of workshops on pangolin conservation, using national radio broadcasts to tell people about the animals and the threats they face, baking pangolin themed cakes, ‘pumping it for pangolins’, making infographics to share online, and building snow pangolins – and all to raise awareness of, and celebrate, these truly unique, fascinating, and increasingly iconic animals.
All these efforts will hopefully contribute positively to the growing global awareness of pangolins and the trouble they are in, both in Africa and Asia. The main threats to pangolins in Asia are poaching and illegal hunting driven largely by an illicit international trade in the animals and their meat and scales, and which is characteristically destined for China and Vietnam. Here, the meat is consumed as a luxury dish in expensive restaurants and the scales are used in medicines to cure a range of medical problems – including helping lactating mothers to secrete milk, to cure skins diseases and to improve blood circulation. In Africa the main threats are again poaching and illicit hunting of the animals, which are eaten as bushmeat and their scales used in a wide variety of ethno-medicinal and spiritual uses, as well as a developing inter-continental trade in African pangolin parts, mainly scales, to Asian markets. As a result of these threats, pangolin populations globally are in decline and all eight species are now threatened with extinction.
Thankfully, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. For me, World Pangolin Day is always a day which makes me think about and question what has been achieved in pangolin conservation in the last year and I’m pleased to say that in the last 12 months there have been some positives. A major highlight was the launching of The Fondation Segré Pangolin Initiative. This is the biggest ever pangolin conservation project funded to date, and which focuses on tackling direct threats to pangolins at priority sites in Cameroon and Thailand and by initiating research into demand for pangolin products in China, and hopefully this symbols the start of concerted investment in pangolin conservation on a global scale. Another highlight was the First Pangolin Range States meeting, hosted by the governments of Vietnam and the United States, which saw many different pangolin range states meet for three days in Da Nang, Vietnam, to discuss and plan conservation responses to the global pangolin crisis.
This year, more so than others, is even more reflective, as it is four years since the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group was reformed (four years = one IUCN quadrennium) and so I’ve also been thinking about what the group has achieved since 2012. Thankfully, I can look back and think we’ve made good progress in advancing the conservation of pangolins. A sample of successes achieved during this time include revising the conservation status of pangolins on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, launching a global conservation action plan for pangolins ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation’, taking the latest information on the scale of illegal pangolin trade to CITES meetings, conducting research in Africa and Asia on uses and demand for pangolin parts as well as on pangolin behaviour, ecology and biology, launching a working group to develop monitoring methods for pangolins, completing the rescue, rehabilitation and release of pangolins in Africa and Asia, advising United for Wildlife on pangolin conservation, and raising awareness of the threats pangolins face through print, broadcast, and social media.
However, despite laying these foundations, this is only the start and there is much more to do to secure the conservation of pangolins globally. This is reflected in the Pangolin Specialist Group Action Plan which recognises that solving the pangolin crisis is complex, will not be solved by silver bullet solutions, but commands a multi-faceted and co-ordinated response. Thankfully, we’ve seen such collaboration over the past 12 months, and indeed the last four years. This of course includes raising awareness, and though it won’t solve everything, it can hopefully contribute to the pangolin’s cause in a positive manner. So, please do your bit, celebrate World Pangolin Day 2016, and help us put a spotlight on the animals and scale up pangolin conservation.
by Dan Challender, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group]]>