On Wednesday I started working with 1stopbrunei Wildlife Club after securing some funding to carry on pangolin conservation with them after a week-long workshop in February.
3 days in and we have already begun to work on some of the objectives including mapping the distribution of pangolin across the country using records of sightings, releases and rescues; increase our understanding about the perception of pangolin in Brunei and the threats facing them; identify suitable forest for future releases; and attempt to monitor those that have already been released.
The last objective is by far the hardest, pangolin is notoriously difficult to survey for in the forest. However, drawing on past experience they sometimes return to previously used sleeping sites or release sites. So this is a good place to start. We decided to set up cameras at previous release locations, paying particular attention to the height, direction and length of time the cameras should be left for, maximizing the chance of getting a photograph.
The type of camera used will also greatly impact the success of obtaining a photograph. This funding has allowed us to purchase some better cameras, the success of which can already be seen by this photo of a pangolin leaving to feed 5 hours after it was released into the wild by the group.
We have also been spending time talking to village heads and loggers to see what information we can obtain from them. At present, no one is targeting pangolin directly, and one village head told us that they only knew they had a pangolin when they cut down the tree for other uses and found it at the top!
However, a worryingly common theme seems to be that there is a high demand from Malaysia and through family connections pangolin caught (just opportunistically) are taken up to the border to satisfy the demand for the use of scales in medicine. In fact one logger, showed us some tail scales that he used for back and kidney pain. One area in particular has been highlighted and it may mean that we take a trip up there at some point in the future.
So even though it’s only just started, we are starting to gather useful information to drive forward pangolin conservation in Brunei. It will be exciting to see what we can achieve over the next 5 weeks, including some important training with the group. Already, I have to say a huge thanks to Shavez and Nazi, two club members, who have been incredibly helpful so far and who I look forward to working with for the rest of my time here.
To follow on from the work on Monday, relevant groups took part in the first part of field training. Pangolins are habitat generalists, however, as with any species there are certain habitat features that they prefer. In order to maximize success we need to be critically evaluating sites to ensure that release is made as easy as possible for them. Today participants spent a bit of time revising what was already known regarding the ecology and behavior of the pangolin and visited two sites to evaluate which one may be more suitable to release a pangolin at. There are no definitive answers, but there are definitely particular questions that need to be considered which participants were encouraged to think about. By doing this they noticed aspects such as differences in soil type; amount of human activity and availability of sleeping sites.
Conservation strategies and awareness campaigns need to undergo continue monitoring, evaluation and refinement in order to be successful in the long term. Ultimately the place we want to see our efforts have the most impact are in the wild – protecting and in some case boosting numbers.
This is not easy. Pangolins are elusive, solitary creatures and are difficult to find. Traditional methods of camera trapping and night spotting, that tend to work so effectively for other species seem less effective for pangolins. The aim of the workshop was therefore, not to teach participants how to survey for pangolin but get people considering what ecological factors might be important to Sunda pangolin. Is there a higher chance of finding pangolin in one type of forest compared to another? How might morphology and behavior affect where you might place camera traps when searching for pangolin? From what we know about home range size and movement patterns, how far apart should we place cameras and how long should we leave them there for?
However, we also came up with some important strategies and steps that could be implemented immediately. Gathering baseline data is imperative and patterns can be spotted using simple techniques so long as they are regularly repeated.
Any conservation strategy, regardless of whether the focus is a particular species, ecosystem or habitat type, should always be partnered with an awareness campaign and education program. Today it was a pleasure to be invited to Jerudong International School to conduct a workshop with students of a variety of ages. The morning started with a session of activities learning about the unique characteristics of the pangolin (did you know that, despite appearance, it is a mammal?). All students were left with tasks to become “Pangolin Protectors” spreading the word about this animal and the threats that it faces. It has been fantastic to hear feedback from both parents and teachers that children have been talking about the workshop and teachers have been initiating extra ideas.
A few afternoon sessions were conducted with some year 9 students. To really help them understand and appreciate the role these animals play in the ecosystem group work began with them thinking about what is known about the pangolin’s ecology and making predictions about what might happen if they are removed from the forest. I was impressed with the ideas they came up with, thinking about predator prey relationships and cascading effects.
Furthermore, they brainstormed suggestions and ideas for alternatives that could be used instead of poaching pangolin – why would it be better to use an inhaler rather than pangolin scales to help with your asthma?
Wildlife conservation is an integral part of Brunei’s move to a more diversified and greener growth. Following this theme and in the run up to the third annual World Pangolin Day it is a pleasure to be running a workshop focusing on designing and strategy for the conservation of the Sunda pangolin; a species for which Brunei represents one of the last remaining strongholds.
The conservation of our natural fauna requires a multi-faceted approach and so the attendance of key stakeholders from a variety of different ministerial departments, NOGs and university students provided a great platform for collaboration and sharing knowledge working towards a common goal.
In order for any strategy to be successful it has to be nationally feasible. The morning section of the workshop was designed to analyse the environment that we were working in order to determine what is possible. It involved taking an honest approach, critically evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced in pangolin conservation.
Conservation of a species involves focusing efforts in key locations, where work will have a measurable impact on a species at a global scale. Until now the crucial role that Brunei plays in the conservation of Sunda pangolin has not been sufficiently highlighted. This was a chance to emphasize the role that this country plays and what a unique position it is in, thanks to swathes of pristine forest found in this country.
The afternoon session was aimed at providing attendees with basic knowledge necessary for the successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of Sunda pangolin. Group work developed ideas on what records should be taken when collecting a rescued pangolin, how natural behaviors can be encouraged during rehabilitation and how to monitor the animal’s progress and how to assess when it is suitable for release. A risk assessment at all stages of the process was conducted to ensure that guidelines were of an international standard.
In the lead up to World Pangolin Day (21st Febraury), I wanted to share some of the drawings and paintings that I have been doing to celebrate this creature (some more successful than others!) I have some exiting activities organised in the week leading up to it, so keep a look out here and on twitter @adelina84. Enjoy.
Set on the gateway to the lake Der Chantecoq, the natural stop over for tens of thousands of common cranes on their way to the Iberian Peninsula, sits the little town of Montier-en-Der, France. Over the past 18 years it has grown into a must-attend event for amateur and professional nature photographers along with the general public and nature lovers. This year the four day festival accommodated over 80 exhibitions of which PPNat – Photographers for the Preservation of Nature, created a display putting the spotlight on the pangolin.
“It is during our travels through Namibia, Zimbabwe and Vietnam, that we became aware of the alarming situation of the pangolin. In 2012, after meeting Lisa Hywood and Maria Diekmann, the photographers of PPNat decided to raise awareness about pangolins, and to promote the conservation NGOs helping the pangolin. The AFPAN, organizers of this festival, immediately responded enthusiastically and gave their full support to the ‘Plight of the Pangolin’ project, and help represent pangolin conservation on a global scale.” say Elyane and Cedric Jacquet, co-founders of PPNat
Through PPNat’s invite, IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group attend alongside key stakeholders The Tikki Hywood Trust, Save Vietmam’s Wildlife, R.E.S.T. (Rare and Endangered Species Trust) and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. Many of these NGOs received donated medical supplies and field equipment handed over at the festival.
A centrally located stand gave the majority of the 45,000 festival-goers access to information about the pangolin, highlighting the plight they face. With 95% of those visitors unaware of what a pangolin is, this was a huge step in raising the awareness for this animal. Several artists from several countries supported the plight of the pangolin, making some stunning pieces of artwork in brush, charcoal and pencil. These artwork pieces are being sold to raise money for conservation organizations doing field work.
Lisa Hywood (Tikki Hywood Trust), Chris Shepherd (TRAFFIC Southeast Asia) and Louise Fletcher (IUCN), all shared their experience talking about their fight in the protection of this extraordinary animal. This culminated in a fascinating conference ‘What’s the future for the pangolin?’
Louise Fletcher, presenting on behalf of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, spoke about her experience releasing rehabilitated Sunda pangolin in Vietnam with Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. This was further supported by literature from the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group’s recently published action plan ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation’ (Challender, Waterman and Baillie, 2014). Fletcher highlighted the need for field work on both wild and released individuals to improve conservation efforts and the importance in continuing to develop rehabilitation and release programs that are applicable to all eight species.
Lisa Hywood beautifully described her experience over the past twenty years with the African species and in particular the ground pangolin, speaking about the dedication required for the successful rehabilitation of individuals rescued from the illegal trade. Something which her organization, The Tikki Hywood Trust, has experienced tremendous success in having just released their 26th rescued pangolin over the past two years. The Tikki Hywood Trust believes that all range state countries need to improve the implementation of their own wildlife laws. Together with this we also need to work towards getting all 8 species of pangolin up listed to CITES Appendix I which will offer this species further awareness and protection.
The presentation by Chris Shepherd from TRAFFIC Southeast Asia put the shear extent of the trade network involved in the trafficking of this species into perspective. Shepherd emphasized the need for increased enforcement for the successful protection of this species, fully supporting the work achieved in Zimbabwe as an example of what should be implemented range wide. Shepherd also highlighted that commercial breeding of pangolins was not a viable option due to the slow reproduction rates and difficulties in keeping pangolins in captivity and the extremely high demand for pangolins. He also cited poor capacity to monitor and regulate breeding operations of any wildlife in Southeast Asia as being another major conservation concern.
Radio and TV interviews caught the attention of national and foreign magazines who are also interested in the fight to save the pangolin and the exhibition will tour to other major nature festivals in Belgium, France and Italy, with the opportunity to exhibit at the Natural History Museums of both Brussels and Paris.
These contacts and a short film due for release soon will help to elevate the animal’s profile by introducing a petition to governments to support the upgrade of all eight species to Appendix 1 on CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) at the next meeting in 2016. This would prohibit any commercial trade of this species.
On behalf of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, Louise Fletcher would like to express her gratitude to the members of PPNat and AFPAN for their support and look forward to future collaborations in the fight to save this species.
Please visit and find out about their pangolin conservation, as well as their other conservation projects.
Save Vietnam’s Wildlife is honored to announce the launch of our official English website http://www.savevietnamswildlife.org on Wednesday 19th November 2014.
Save Vietnam’s Wildlife was established as a national Non-Profit Organisation on July 22nd 2014 and our website showcases what we have been doing. The Vietnamese version will be issued within the next month.
Our website provides an overview of the conservation achievements of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife over the last few months and of the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program’s in the past several years of which Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW) continues to take responsibility for.
Despite threats of habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife is actively engaged in the correct placement of confiscated wildlife. We strive to carry out scientific research increasing the understanding of the requirements for threatened species in the wild and in captivity; educate and train the public and rangers to promote positive perceptions and attitudes towards wildlife conservation; and develop conservation breeding programmes for threatened species to support wild populations. Finally, we’re continually evolving our animal welfare standards and practices promoting ideals to zoos and rescue centres across Vietnam.
We are writing to express our deepest thanks for your generous donation and support to The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program in the past and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife in the future. We are excited about what can be achieved with your continued support.
On behalf of the team at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife
All the best,