Pangolins

Pangolin

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Pholidota
Family: Manidae
Genus: Manis
Scientific Name: Manis javanica
Common Name: Sunda or Malayan pangolinpangolin

There are 8 distinct species of pangolin recognised; four in Asia and four in Africa. Though endemic countries are known, little is known regarding current populations in these regions of the different species. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species states that “virtually no information is available on population levels of any species of Asian pangolins” (http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/12763/0).  There have only been a few studies on the distribution of Asian species (Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008). For example, there is a study of the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) in Singapore (Lim and Ng 2008), there is one of the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) in Dawuling Nature Reserve (Wu, Liu et al. 2003) and Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008 produced of the first distribution maps for the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) in Vietnam (Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008).

It is often difficult to locate pangolins and current biodiversity monitoring methods are often unsuccessful at recording the presence of pangolins e.g. a WWF Sabah Wildlife survey recorded few pangolins (Tuuga 2008) and no pangolins were recorded in the IUCN 1999 status report, despite extensive nocturnal searches (Duckworth, Salter et al. 1999).  Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008 state that most of the information about pangolin distribution derives from the knowledge of local hunters. In conclusion, very little is known about the current distribution of Asian pangolins, but what is known from numerous anecdotal reports, is that current populations are rapidly declining and distributions are becoming more and more sparse.

All species of pangolin have similar external characteristics. Their most distinctive feature is their horny scales, which grow from thick underlying skin and protect every part of the body except the muzzle, cheeks, the underside and the inner surfaces of the limbs (Macdonald 1984; Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). These scales are brownish grey in colour, are made of agglutinated hairs, similar to the rhinoceros horn (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988) and are shed and replaced periodically (Macdonald 1984).

Pangolins have short but powerful limbs, a long body tapering to a conical head and a long tail. When the animal is walking, the tail is held below the level of the body, parallel to the ground and elevated a few centimetres (Payne, Francis et al. 1985; Lekagul and McNeeley 1988; Francis 2008). It is wrapped around the animal’s body if it is disturbed, threatened or attacked in order to protect its non-scaly underside (Payne, Francis et al. 1985; Francis 2008). To help the pangolin to grip when climbing trees, there are also scales which project from both sides of the tail (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). There is also a well-developed smooth pad on the underside of the tail to grip around branches (Francis 2008). The tail is also used for auxiliary support when climbing (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). The feet have five clawed digits and the front feet have longer claws than the hind feed (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988; Francis 2008). Locomotion is usually quadrupedal walking, although they can walk bipedally or stand fully erect (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). Pangolins have a developed sense of smell and their hearing is acute but their eyesight seems poor (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988).Pangolin

They have a number of physiological adaptations for their specialist, myrmecophagous diet of eating ants and termites. In particular, they open the nests of their prey with their powerful claws (Veevers-Carter 1979; Francis 2008) and probe the nests with their long, narrow tongue. This tongue is longer than the combined length of the head and the body and can be extended for up to 40cm in the largest pangolin, the Giant pangolin (Manis gigantea) (Macdonald 1984). It is housed in a sheath and is controlled by muscles anchored to the pelvis (Macdonald 1984; Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). Sticky saliva is secreted on to the tongue by a very large salivary gland (360-400cu cm) (Macdonald 1984). This causes prey, and quantities of earth and debris, to adhere to the pangolin’s tongue. The throat performs a rhythmic action during feeding which acts as a filter and removes unwanted material from the tongue (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988).  Pangolins have no teeth or chewing muscles so food is ground up in a specialised horny stomach (Macdonald 1984). To minimise ant bites/stings, the external ear is reduced or absent (Macdonald 1984; Francis 2008), ear canals can be closed (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988), there are specialised muscles to close the nostrils during feeding and there are also thick eye lids (Macdonald 1984). The scales also offer protection from bites/stings but, if an ant manages to get under a scale, the pangolin can crush it by moving its scales in a grinding motion (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988).

Sexual dimorphism is present in these animals. In most species, males are 10-50% heavier than females (Macdonald 1984).

Most sources report that Asian pangolins are found in a range of habitats from forests to grasslands (Macdonald 1984). However, they are also often found in cultivated areas (Francis 2008), such as gardens and plantations (Veevers-Carter 1979). Despite its relatively wide distribution there are few detailed studies on the ecology of the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and much of what is now known about the species is anecdotal (Lim and Ng 2008). Given that the other species of pangolin inhabit different latitudes and habitats, they probably also have different ecological niches from the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) (Lim and Ng 2008).Pang

However, there is one study (Lim 2008) which captured, radio-marked and monitored 22 Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica) and analysed their preferred habitat and prey. This study showed that there was significant avoidance of the Mangrove habitat but no significant preference between Secondary Forest, Monoculture and Urban. This result supports the numerous reports of Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica) occurring outside forested areas. The study also observed pangolins utilising urban structures (e.g. drains and houses) for resting purposes during the day. Despite the lack of habitat preference for male pangolins, females with young always used natal dens associated with large trees. The study therefore concludes that mature forest is required for Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica) in their reproductive phase.

Lim (2008) recorded an average home range of 43.3ha for adult male Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica) (a female with young had a smaller range of 6.97ha). Lim and Ng (2008) speculate that the smaller home-range size of the female could be due to a limited number of suitable natal dens and also a result of reduced mobility during the reproductive stages. Aside from this study, little is known in general about the size of an Asian pangolins’ home range. Lim (2008) also captured a female within a male’s home range and expects that there is overlap of home ranges between the sexes in the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica).

Pangolins are nocturnal and spend the day in a burrow which can be up to 600cm deep (although Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) dens only appear to reach depths of between 60 to 350cm (Sopyan 2008)). These burrows have an end chamber up to 2m in diameter and are dug by pangolins or enlarged from a burrow dug by a smaller animal (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). The entrance is blocked with earth when the pangolin is inside (Veevers-Carter 1979; Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). Interestingly, Lim and Ng (2008) recorded a female Sunda pangolin with young using three different natal dens associated with trees: one was an underground burrow leading to a tree hollow of dead tree with one entrance; one was in a dead fallen hollow tree with one entrance at the base of the tree; and the other was in a hollow of a live tree with two entrances, one of which was 1.3 m above ground. In this study, Lim and Ng (2008) observed that the daily active period for this female was 127 ± 13.1 min and the peak activity levels were between 03:00 and 06:00 hours. Challender (2008) observed that captive Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) were active from 17:00 to 05:00 hours with high activity patterns before midnight.Pangolin

When foraging at night, pangolins primarily use their sense of smell to locate the nests of their preferred prey, termites or ants (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). A pangolin of 3kg can consume up to 300-400g of termites or ants per feeding (Abdullah 2008). The nest is excavated using their strong limbs and their prey is eaten using their specialised tongue, previously described. Lim (2008) recorded that ants made up more of the Sunda pangolin’s foraging time than termites (67% compared with 33% respectively). In this study, male pangolins foraged on 11 genera of ants and the species, Anoplolepis gracilipes, was significantly preferred but Philidris, Crematogaster and Myrmicaria were avoided. There are also examples of pangolins feeding on various other invertebrates including bee larvae, flies, worms, earthworms, and crickets (Yang, Chou et al. 1999).IMG_0391

The pangolin’s scales help to protect them from natural predators. As a defensive mechanism, pangolins curl into a ball when threatened which protects their soft underside (Veevers-Carter 1979). Only a few animals (such as tigers, larger cats and hyenas) are strong enough to bite through the scales (Veevers-Carter 1979; Macdonald 1984). The glandular pad on the tip of the tail also hooks onto a convenient scale and makes it nearly impossible to unfold a pangolin (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988).

Pangolins are usually solitary but their social life is governed by their enhanced sense of smell. Faeces is distributed along tracks of their home ranges and trees are marked with urine and a pungent secretion from an anal gland (Macdonald 1984). It is thought that these odours may communicate dominance and sexual status and facilitate individual recognition (Macdonald 1984). It is unlikely that pangolin vocalisations (mainly puffs and hisses) are used in social communication (Macdonald 1984).

There are no specific studies of mating behaviour  and there is conflicting information regarding the timing of mating and reproduction: Lim and Ng (2008) believe that pangolin species may reproduce all year round but Macdonald (1984) states that births usually occur between November and March and Yang, Chen et al. (2007) suggest that there may be a preferred mating season in Chinese pangolins (Manis pentadactyla) as there is elevated levels of mating behaviour in captive animals in May and June (Macdonald 1984; Yang, Chen et al. 2007; Lim and Ng 2008). What is known is that pangolins usually give birth to single offspring (Macdonald 1984; Lim and Ng 2008) but two or three have been reported on occasions (Macdonald 1984; Payne and Francis 1998). There is no information on the gestation period of the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), although Payne & Francis (1998) (as citied in Lim and Ng 2008) speculate it to be two to three months. Gestation periods in other species tend to vary: 65-70 days for the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudara), 139 days for the Cape and Tree pangolin (Manis temminckii and tricuspus) (Macdonald, 1984) and over 169 days for the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) (Yang, Chen et al. 2007). Except for the observation of a waxy substance on the mammae before the female gave birth, Heath and Vanderlip (1988) recorded no external signs of pregnancy in the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) (Heath and Vanderlip 1988).IMG_1500

It is believed that the female pangolin will take refuge in safe location, such as a den, to give birth (Lim and Ng 2008). Newborns weigh 90-500g depending on species and the scales do not harden until the second day of life (Wilson 1994). Heath and Vanderlip (1988) recorded births of Chinese pangolins (Manis pentadactyla) in captivity and noted that the newborn pangolins were extremely well developed; eyes were open and the fore-legs were very strong with long, well-developed claws. Maternal care in the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) appears to last for around 3 or 4 months (Macdonald 1984; Payne and Francis 1998; Lim and Ng 2008), although a captive Chinese pangolin is reported to have exhibited maternal care for as long as 6 months (S. F. Chen, pers. comm. in Lim and Ng, 2008). During this period of maternal care, the growth of the young is rapid (see Fig 4). The young climbs onto its mother’s tail soon after birth and is carried in this fashion throughout the period of maternal care (Macdonald 1984). Juveniles have also been observed to ‘wrestle’ their mothers in captivity but it is not known whether this behaviour was induced by captivity (Challender 2008). Lastly, the young are believed to reach sexual maturity at 2 years (Macdonald 1984).

Numerous zoos have attempted to keep pangolins with limited success (Yang, Chen et al. 2007). Although they have been held in captivity for up to 19 years, this should be considered exceptional (Challender 2008) and the average life span in captivity is approximately four-and-a-half years (Wilson 1994). In particular, mortality rates are high and records indicate that 71% usually do not survive the first year in captivity and only 11% survive beyond two-and-half years (Hoyt 1987; Wilson 1994). Although more recently, with improved captive environments and husbandry skills, mortality rates have been reduced to 50% at the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (Clark, Van Thai et al. 2008). Pangolins are generally regarded as difficult to keep in the captivity due to aspects of their ecology such as their specialist, myrmecophagous diet and their excellent digging and climbing skills. Also, a lack of understanding of their wild social behaviour, foraging ecology and reproductive behaviour is likely to contribute to the lack of success in captivity (Challender 2008). The most common causes of death are stress, parasitism, malnutrition, gastrointestinal disorders and pneumonia (Hoyt 1987; Wilson 1994).pangolin-baby-ride-300x206

Pangolins are not able to tolerate temperature extremes but can be successfully kept outdoors in their native habitats (Wilson 1994). Wilson (1994) states that pangolins can be housed singly, in pairs or in small groups but it is possible that the close proximity of males in captivity can cause stress (Challender 2008), especially as these animals are generally solitary in the wild. Housing needs to be secure because they are “superb escape artists” due to their digging and climbing skills (Vijayan, Yeong et al. 2008). Wilson (1994) recommends leaf litter or mulch as a substrate, but Vijayan et al. (2008) believe that rubber mats are best as other substrates either deteriorate or cause abrasions to the pangolins’ feet.  Wood shavings or sawdust should be avoided as they can be ingested resulting in stomach impaction and death (Heath and Vanderlip 1988; Wilson 1994). The Night safari (Vijayan, Yeong et al. 2008) recommends placing natural branches in the dens. This provides enrichment as activity levels increase when old branches are replaced (Vijayan, Yeong et al. 2008) and prevents stereotypic behaviour (Challender 2008). Nest/bed boxes are recommended (Heath and Vanderlip 1988; Wilson 1994) and the trialling of arboreal boxes has been suggested by Challender (2008) due to the observations of Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica) resting amongst high branches (also seen by Vijayan et al. 2008). Litter boxes are recommended by Heath & Vanderlip (1988) otherwise pangolins urinate or defecate in random locations, and all individuals tend to walk through, and drag their tails through, the excrement. The paper also recommends placing a sterilized children’s sandbox in the nest box in addition to two other litter boxes. This prevents the pangolins from sleeping in their litter boxes.

It is difficult to replicate pangolins’ natural diet in captivity (Yang, Chen et al. 2007). As a result, artificial diets have been developed (Heath and Vanderlip 1988; Wilson 1994; Yang, Chen et al. 2007; Vijayan, Yeong et al. 2008). However, a possible problem with artificial diets is that they can be consumed much more rapidly resulting in a requirement for behavioural enrichment (Challender 2008). As an artificial diet, Wilson (1994) recommends blending egg, meat (minced beef or horse or canned feline diets), Esbilac, water, vitamins, a type of chow or psyllium seed and insects such as ants, termites, mealworms or crickets into a gruel mixture and feeding daily. A similar diet was used for Chinese pangolins (Manis pentadactyla) by Heath & Vanderlip (1988) and the psyllium seed powder was found to reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea. Yang, Chen et al. (2007) provide details of artificial pangolin diets used at various zoos around the world and provide specific information on the development of the diet used at Taipei Zoo. This zoo’s current diet contains bee larvae, apples, meal worm larvae, yeast powder, coconut powder, egg yolks, calcium carbonate, powdered vitamin and mineral supplement and soil. The Night safari (Vijayan, Yeong et al. 2008) has had success with an artificial diet developed from Taipei Zoo’s diet. However, it also includes Mazuri insectivore pellets, salmon oil and powdered termite mound, which is important as it slows the passage of food through the gut and increases the absorption of nutrients. The paste is presented to the pangolins at night in a large, shallow, uncovered dish which is heavy enough so it is difficult to overturn. When introducing a new pangolin to an artificial diet, Vijayan, Yeong et al. 2008 also recommend sprinkling cooled torpid live ants over the blended mixture to encourage the pangolin to eat. Once the pangolin has accepted the diet, mesh is secured over the food dish to prevent the pangolin stepping in the food.

The most successful breeding programs for the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) have been in Japan and Taiwan and the first captive birth at Taipei Zoo occurred in 1997, where the animal still lives (Yang, Chen et al. 2007). Challender (2008) also notes that pangolin enclosures may need modifications as young pangolins can escape through 2inch chain link fencing.  Little information is available on hand-rearing but the young appear to require frequent feeding, a great deal of personal contact and will use a litter box early in development (Wilson 1994). The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP) has had success in rearing a baby pangolin, which was only 700g when it was rescued, by using a commercially available, powdered kitten milk formula (Clark, Van Thai et al. 2008).

Challender (2008) observed stress-related clawing behaviour in captive Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica). This involved rapidly putting their forelimbs and head backwards and forwards through the fencing. However, the appropriate captive environment can minimise these behaviours. In particular, the Night Safari has observed that once pangolins have settled into their new environment, they can sleep in a very relaxed manner, sleeping on their backs uncurled or even draped, limply over a branch (Vijayan, Yeong et al. 2008).

In the CITES-listed species database, pangolins (Manis spp) are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). At the 11th Conference of the Parties to CITES in 2000, it was proposed to transfer Asian pangolin species from Appendix II to I but it was not carried (Lochen 2000). However, a ‘zero’ trade quota for these species was agreed, which means that all international trade is banned. Countries are obligated to implement and enforce the requirement of CITES through national legislation but many countries are not fulfilling their obligation. Only 4 out of the 10 Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have sufficient national legislation to implement CITES (Shepherd 2008). As a result, the illegal trade of pangolins continues on a large scale (Shepherd 2008) and it is suspected that there has been a drastic decline in wild Asian pangolin populations (Chin and Pantel 2008).

pangolin soup

Pangolin foetus soup

Loss of natural habitat and illegal trade are the main factors which have led to  the disappearance of wild populations of Asian pangolins (Semiadi, Darnaedi et al. 2008). Although their diet is specialised, it is unlikely to be a limited factor for pangolins because the high availability of food items (Lim 2008). Historically, pangolins have been hunted locally as the meat is a good source of protein. In 1990s, trade was focused on pangolin skins to make accessories, such as bags and wallets, but demand for skins has now stopped (Sopyan 2008). Now, demand largely comes from China. Pangolin meat is used in restaurants and one dish, pangolin foetus soup, is believed to increase men’s stamina (Sopyan 2008). Pangolin scales are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (‘TCM’) to treat allergies (Sopyan 2008) and they are also claimed to adjust internal secretion and treat gout (Yongping 2008). Initially, Chinese demand could be met locally, but as supply went down, demand now has to be met through pangolins from other countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia (Semiadi, Darnaedi et al. 2008). It is estimated that between 100,000 and 135,000 pangolins a year are needed to meet the demand in China (Wu and Ma 2007). Economic problems of the local people in these countries help to drive the illegal trade. For example, in Indonesia, a local hunter is paid IDR15,000 to 20,000 per kg (USD 1.6-2.1 at 2008 rates). Given that an animal weighs between 3 to 7 kg, this provides an income of IDR 45,000 to 60,000 (USD 4.6 to 6.30 at 2008 rates) per animal. This is substantial for the local people given that their minimal living costs are only IDR 30,000 (USD3.10 at 2008 rates) per day (Semiadi, Darnaedi et al. 2008). Prices escalate through the supply chain and a 7kg pangolin can ultimately sell for USD1,250 in China (Yongping 2008). In the last 40 years, prices have increased considerably in all regions. As an example, in Malaysia, prices have increased over a 100 times since the 1970s (Chin and Pantel 2008). Prices are still increasing and are related to demand (e.g. higher demand during the winter in China) and supply (e.g. the impact of enforcement activities) (Chin and Pantel 2008). Unfortunately, as populations of pangolins decline, their value to hunters is increasing at a rate greater than that of annual inflation (Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008)

Four main methods are used to hunt pangolins: tracking at night using torches; tracking using trained dogs; trapping with cable snares or snap traps (pangolin-specific or non-selective); or tracking by day to find burrows and smoking/digging of dens (Chin and Pantel 2008; Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008; Sopyan 2008). The method of choice is often dependent on the species; the Chinese pangolin (Manus pentadactyla) is mainly located by searching for an occupied burrow, whereas the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) is mainly caught in snare traps, both pangolin-specific and non-selective (Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008). Once found, the pangolins’ defensive mechanism of curling into a ball, make them easy to catch. However, it has been reported that the more arboreal Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) is harder to catch than the more terrestrial Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)  (Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008). The practice of cutting down trees associated with dens in order to capture the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) may also be acting concurrently to reduce populations (Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008). This is because it reduces the number of available tree hollows, which are thought to be used by the females as natal dens (Lim and Ng 2008).

Local hunters quickly sell on their catch (Chin and Pantel 2008) and the pangolins are then processed and transported in packages mislabelled as products from non-protected species (Sopyan 2008). Bribery is used to pay off authorities to facilitate the movement of pangolins. There are a number of stages in the supply-chain involving a number of agents and it varies from country to country. A survey conducted by Chin & Pantel (2008) in Malaysia revealed that local hunters sell pangolins to agents or middlemen, who are usually Malaysian Chinese, owning businesses and using pangolin trade as a side income. Main traders collect pangolins from the agents/middlemen and stock is retained until there is sufficient volume for shipment (2-3 tonnes). Big traders in Thailand deal with traders from a range of countries and organise smuggling into China. Shipments enter China via sea ports such as Guangdong, Fujian, Yantai and Shandong, via air freight through Bangkok, or via land through Vietnam and Lao (Sopyan 2008; Yongping 2008).

Transportation of live pangolins is usually with little regard to the animal and involves stressful, unhygienic and cruel conditions. They are often transported in a curled-up position (see Fig 4) in tightly tied individual sacks with many individuals stacked together in crates (Clark, Van Thai et al. 2008). This means that confiscated pangolins are normally covered in faeces and urine and bacterial dermatitis is very common. Also, as pangolins are sold by weight, cornflower mixed with water or other liquids are often force fed or injected under the skin to increase their weight (Clark, Van Thai et al. 2008). Confiscated pangolins can have traumatic wounds due to the method of capture in the wild (e.g. hunting dogs, traps) which can led to infection and fatal septicaemia (Clark, Van Thai et al. 2008). They also have a high incidence of parasites and can suffer from gastric/oesophageal ulcerations and lesions, probably due to physiological and nutritional stress. The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP) therefore suggests that there are “compelling arguments against the immediate release” of confiscated pangolins as their condition means that they are unlikely to survive (WildlifeAlliance 2008). Alternatively, it recommends that pangolins are transferred to rescue centres, where there are quarantine facilities, disease surveillance and the opportunity of rehabilitation (Clark, Van Thai et al. 2008).pangolin trade

Given its protected status, there are penalties for being involved in pangolin trade in most Asian countries. These vary from country to country. For example, in Sabah, Malaysia, there is a penalty for hunting without a license (fine MYR50,000 or USD14,320 2008 rates and/or 5-year imprisonment), for possession of a CITES Appendix II listed species without a license (fine MYR30,000 or USD8,590 2008 rates and/or 3-year imprisonment) and for taking specimens out of the state without a permit (fine MYR50,000 or USD14,320 2008 rates and/or 5-year imprisonment) (Tuuga 2008). Despite awareness that it is illegal to be involved in the trade of pangolins, all of the respondents of the Chin & Pantel (2008) survey remained active due to the high sale prices. This appears to be a common theme in other Asian countries; penalties are having little effect on international trade volumes given the high prices which can be obtained by selling pangolins or pangolin products on the black market.

The scale of the illegal trade to China is staggering. In February/March 2008, approximately 23 tonnes of pangolin carcasses and scales, the remains of approximately 8,000 animals, were seized in Vietnam in a single week (Pantel 2008). A few months later in July 2008, approximately 14 tonnes of pangolins were seized in Sumatra, Indonesia (TRAFFIC 1997-2009; Shepherd 2008). Numerous other such alarming examples are easily found through a simple Google search. Trade of this scale is unsustainable for the long-term survival of the species, especially as pangolins are exceptionally vulnerable to over-exploitation because they are easily hunted, have a slow reproductive rate and are difficult to keep and breed in captivity (Shepherd 2008). As a result of rampant illegal trade, pangolins have already become scarce in much of their former range (Shepherd 2008). A quote from a local hunter epitomises the challenges faced by pangolin conservation: “They used to be very common, but nowadays there are no more pangolins in my area; everyone is looking out for pangolins because of their good price” (Abdullah 2008).

In 2005, all 10 ASEAN countries came together to form the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network. If pangolins are to be saved from extinction, enforcement agencies need to work together like this in order to tackle cross-border crime and to ensure that CITES and national legislation is sufficiently enforced (Shepherd 2008). Co-operation at both the international and national level is required, especially because illegal traders are currently taking advantage of the low enforcement of the ban (Semiadi, Darnaedi et al. 2008). However, it can be difficult to obtain reliable sources of information to support investigations. In particular, hunters, smugglers and middleman are difficult to detect without informers. To help overcome this, in Sabah, Malaysia, enforcement authorities try to identify informers and play on the rivalry between gangs (Tuuga 2008). At the workshop on trade and conservation of pangolins native to Southeast Asia held at Singapore Zoo in 2008, all parties agreed that better enforcement was vital.

At the Singapore conference, there were a number of recommendations on the future conservation of pangolins. There were suggestions that a quota system might need to be considered for a short period of time, as an alternative to the CITES legislation, because the ban seems to have been unsuccessful to date (Semiadi, Darnaedi et al. 2008). However, others suggested that pangolins should be uplisted to CITES Appendix I (Sopyan 2008). There appeared to be consensus that public awareness activities are essential to educate local people on the importance of pangolin conversation (Chin and Pantel 2008; Ling 2008; Sopyan 2008). As conservation efforts are made particularly difficult due to a fundamental lack of scientific information on pangolin distribution and ecological behaviour, all parties agreed that further research is vital (Chin and Pantel 2008; Sopyan 2008). Other suggestions included encouraging the use of substitutes in TCM (Chin and Pantel 2008), improvement of TCM labelling systems (Yue 2008) and R&D programmes on captive breeding (Yue 2008). Other recommendations are: increasing the capacity of rangers/wildlife authorities and the number of Rescue and Rehabilitation Centres (http://www.savepangolins.org/conservation); and  tackling hunting methods by confiscating hunting dogs, removing snare lines or regulating access to forests (Newton, Nguyen Van et al. 2008). Finally, the role of pangolins in pest control needs to be investigated further as their potential ability to control termites and ants could save millions of dollars per year in pest destruction  (Abdullah 2008).

 

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