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World Pangolin Day celebrations highlight pangolin conservation in a critical year and decade for biodiversity

White-bellied pangolin, photographed by Tim Wacher at the Zoological Society of London

The year 2020 is critically important for pangolins and biodiversity overall, as is the decade leading up to 2030. Within 2020, numerous gatherings of governments, scientists and conservation organizations will take place to address strategies for conserving the planet’s wildlife, including the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in February, the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France, in June, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) CoP15 meeting, which is scheduled to take place in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, in October. Key decisions will be made at these meetings that will affect how the world responds to the ongoing loss of biodiversity. As an example, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP15) meeting will review the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and discuss a 10-year strategy to halt the decline and extinction of species. Other meetings will take place that have implications directly for pangolins. For instance, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Animals Committee begins its intersessional work later in the year. There are a number of CITES Decisions that require implementation so that governments can access the knowledge they need (e.g., data on trafficking levels) to guide future decision-making and help mitigate the threat of overexploitation to pangolins.

Equally essential are the actions and interventions being taken on the ground to conserve pangolins in situ. These range from ecological research to anti-poaching units physically protecting pangolins in protected areas, among a whole swathe of other activities, many that include Pangolin Specialist Group members. World Pangolin Day is in its eighth year and provides an excellent platform to learn about these efforts and the individuals and organisations involved in pangolin conservation in all its forms. With each passing year, more and more people and organisations get involved in World Pangolin Day to celebrate these remarkable animals and highlight some of what they are doing to conserve the species. Key conservation stakeholders including government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as civil society organisations and individuals have increasingly mobilized to the pangolin cause in the last decade. This is a real cause for optimism for the species. The day is celebrated in various ways in different parts of the world, with roundtable meetings, presentations, radio shows, football matches, meetings with government ministers, the baking of pangolin-themed cupcakes, and celebrations on social media.

Indian pangolin and her pup, photographed by Rajesh Mohapatra

There remains much to be done to secure a future for pangolins. The IUCN Red List assessments published in 2019 highlighted that all pangolins species remain threatened with extinction, primarily due to overexploitation. There is a critical need for locally appropriate conservations interventions at sites where pangolins occur and along international trafficking routes. While we have more knowledge of the eight pangolin species than ever before, there is also much yet to be discovered about pangolins, including population numbers, demographics, and the impact of exploitation. The recent new scientific book on pangolins and their conservation includes a discussion on scaling up pangolin conservation, including identifying and verifying sites critical to their conservation across their ranges, and developing programmes to robustly monitor populations at these sites in order to secure them and guide future investment. Taking pangolin conservation to scale is our goal for the decade ahead to ensure that we catalyse impact from the growing interest in the species and increased conservation effort.

The IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group celebrates pangolins and the work of our members everyday. Enjoy World Pangolin Day, however you are celebrating it, and be sure to share your stories with us on social media. Follow @PangolinSG on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

 

Dr Dan Challender

Chair, IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group