Designing and building a quarantine

A few years ago, after the mass confiscation of pangolins reported in Medan, North Sumatra I began working with an organisation working with Loris (Kukang) to add a pangolin element to their work.

Since securing funding from Ocean Park, we have been able to start thinking about developing the facilities to deal with compromised pangolin. The first step of this is building a quarantine enclosure.

Drawing on experience from past work with Save Vietnam’s Wildlife  and with the knowledge of the resources available here in Indonesia, we set to work outlining what is needed.

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We are able to start with three quarantine enclosures with the aim of building up to six with more funding. As trade confiscated pangolins are known to suffer from gastro-intestinal problems, the enclosures have been designed to be easy to rid of all parasites and are concrete to prevent the animals from digging out of stress. Each has a bed box for the animal to sleep in a small pool for them to drink or bathe in.

After working out the design and costings a suitable piece of land was selected. One where it is well protected but isolated from other healthy animals to avoid any disease transmission. While a suitable area has been selected, even more security steps will be developed. Working close to Medan, a main port for pangolin trafficking (see map below from a Traffic report) there is always a risk keeping pangolins.

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However, since building has only just begun, we have time to set up a security system protecting both the rehabilitation site itself and formally secure the loyalty of all staff.

In the meantime the rest of the year will be spent developing these bamboo markers into a suitable pangolin quarantine centre, slowly develop the capacity for pangolin conservation in this area.

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World Pangolin Day 2018

World Pangolin Day 2018 took me back to Nepal and the small village of Yanshila in the Eastern region. Here I worked with an organisation KTK Belt Project who are creating a Vertical University, with different villages at each elevation being in a habitat that is home to an endangered species; a species that can easily be preserved if people became aware of their plight.

According to local knowledge, the forest around the village has both Chinese and Indian pangolin, making protecting the land from ‘land grabbing’ critical. The third Saturday of February, for the seventh year in a row, marked the launch of a campaign to protect this land, an opportunity to donate to the purchase can be found here.

In Yangshila itself, we took the opportunity to really celebrate the pangolin. Outdoor education workshops involved the students writing pangolin ‘Just So’ stories, set in their village. My personal favourite, was Krishna’s who wrote about how the pangolin got its scales – a local resident took it to their house and wove its scales out of their own hair!

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In the week before the event, we conducted a small workshop to train local youngsters in how to conduct social surveys, with the view to collect information about how individuals in the village truly view the pangolin and if the awareness being conducted in having any effect. A bit of role play encouraged the students to think about how they  might approach farmers who are less than cooperative.

20180215_163936We also conducted another workshop in part of the village at a higher altitude where female participants were rewarded with wonderfully designed pangolin bags by Bora Studio Nepal

Finally, on Friday evening, the exhibit was unveiled of the student’s art work. Rangers, government officials, potential poachers and local villagers were guided around the banners by the students, and witnessed the placing of well designed signage in front of the prime habitat. Participants were then invited to sign a banner to pledge their protection of this species.

They were then treated to a series of videos about the pangolin from around the world and finished with the premier screening of a video about pangolins made by local Belt Fellow Ganga Limbu which can be viewed here.

All in all, it was a wonderful event combining art, education and local knowledge to rally a community to really ingrain pangolin into their psyche. Thanks to all involved and to One More Generation for the funding.

Pangolin education in Nepal

Unfortunately the goings on in Nepal sometimes remain out of the global eye. Less that a week ago the eastern part of Nepal suffered flash flooding causing homes to be destroyed, rice paddies flattened and landslides cutting off villages.

Yet, the village of Yangshila where KTK-Belt work have shown resilience and welcomed the start of their next education module based on pangolin conservation.

There are many challenges to overcome and today was the first trial run.

  1. Most of the students know nothing of a pangolin (which meant they left having discovered a lot of new knowledge)
  2. The obvious language barrier (for which I owe huge amounts to the local staff who helped facilitate the learning)
  3. Novel teaching methods (student led rather than teacher led, which took some getting used to)
  4. Uncomfortable conditions and lack of equipment (ridiculous heat and some a deafening downpour on an old tin roof)

However, there is nothing more satisfying than overcoming these barriers and finishing knowing students have left with a memorable experience.

To start with we used our new found friend Panga (follow on instagram @pangaforpangolins) to allow the students to introduce themselves and tell us if them or anyone in their family had ever seen pangolin.

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After a quick quiz we talked about how animals have special features that help them adapt to their environment. The students then had to do card sort, matching the picture to the feature and thinking about how it helped the pangolin survive. This is a well used teaching method to get students thinking and discovering information, rather than just being told it, and this is not something that students are used to.

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It took a little bit of convincing to show them that it didn’t matter if they got it right or wrong, but it was the process of thinking and discovery that was important. Remember, this convincing was done primarily through the medium of mime and smiling as my Nepalese is next to nothing.

They then began on their booklet, recording the features of the pangolin and drawing a picture of where they think a pangolin might live. It also took some support to help them realise they live in the forest and getting them to think about what might be in a forest.

We then moved on to looking at the fact that they are traded and used for medicine. students were shocked my images from Sumatra of nearly 1000 pangolins being buried after a warehouse of them being raided in Medan in 2015. They tackled some tricky maths to work out what pangolins were used for came up with solgans about what they would say to people to stop pangolins being used for medicine.

The final part of the workshop was campaign, run alongside One More Generation where students paint scales with images of pangolins on to a large banner, to pledge their protection to it. Students were free to colour the scales as they chose as a way to pledge their protection of the pangolin. I have never seen a group of students so focused on what they were doing. As I write the scales are drying and will be placed tomorrow on the banner, which will hopefully be displayed later in the village.

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Grassroots education may not be easy or glamorous, but it certainly has impact.

Pangolin Education Program

Alongside the pangolin art awareness campaign running alongside One More Generation I have been developing a 4 hour education plan to make the final art installation more meaningful and is specifically for use in range countries. The idea is that it covers the topics of biology/ecology, maths, literacy and art, the resources are provided for local NGOs to adapt the program as they feel would suit the area they work in and are free to implement it.

An outline of the lessons objectives and activities are outlined below and all the resources are prepared reading for printing. There is a detailed plan available of how the each lesson runs.

Hour Subject area/Objectives Activities Resources
1 Science

·         Identify morphological features of the pangolin.

·         Illustrate how the pangolin is adapted to its environment.

·         Describe why a pangolin is important to have in our forests.

Quiz – basic facts.

Card sort – adaptation to its use. Match feature to adaptation.

Write a letter describe what the forest is like now all the pangolins have been poached.

Videos and photographs.

Booklet to be used for the whole workshop.

Clues for the quiz.

Card sort.

2 Maths

·         Interpret facts about pangolin poaching from Nepal.

·         Design a pictograph using pangolin stamps.

Reading data

Creating a graph(s)

Rulers and pencils.

Compasses and protractors.

Pangolin stamps and ink pads.

Pangolin facts.

3 Literacy

·         Identify what is good about a children’s book.

·         Recall the English for important key words.

·         Write a short story/paragraph about a pangolin on an adventure somewhere in Nepal.

Reading the story.

Flash cards of key words. See if they can remember the English words. Play a game with words and actions.

Writing a story.

Copies of the book both A Pangolin Tale.

Flashcards

4 Art

·         Identify the countries that pangolin are found in.

·         Illustrate your protection to the plight of the pangolin by designing a scale.

Colour in a map of range countries and match flags.

Design and paint their scale.

Pencils, paints, water pots and paint brushes

Banner

Print out of scales.

Maps with named countries.

The resources can be translated into the native language or a key word list can be provided to enable to students to work independently. Each student takes a workbook home with them, as a means to share knowledge with their family and increasing the impact of the whole event.

Flash card with sums to work out why the pangolin is poached.
Key word game to help students learn key English words.
Example of the completed banner presented at the UN on World Wildlife Day

Over the next week the program will be run with two organisation in Nepal: Greenhood Nepal and KTK-BELT Project.

If your organisation is interested in running the workshop please contact me and we can workout costs and funding. Also, if anyone wishes to fund or contribute to the printing of resources please also feel free to contact me.

 

Trained dogs in the use of pangolin conservation

Over the past year I have been working alongside Ecology Dogs in the UK and Wildlife Reserves, Singapore on a project to use trained dogs to find pangolin scat.

The plan starts with a test phase in the UK, where it will be determined if there is a significant difference between the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in captive and wild scat samples and those from an artificial captive diet and a more natural captive diet. This will then be used to determine if captive scat can be used to train dogs to successfully find wild scat in the forest.

Following on from that dog will be sourced from the UK where it will be partly trained with the samples before being transferred over to Singapore where an individual will be selected and trained to work with the dog and where field testing will occur.

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The diet change of the captive pangolins at Singapore Night Safari was successfully completed and samples from captive animals were collected from the beginning of October 2016. This means we have samples of captive scat on two different diets.

A local UK zoo, Colchester Zoo, has formally agreed to supply discrimination scat from their captive ant eater as the diet it is provided is similar to the artificial diet used by institutions housing pangolin.

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We now await our final two wild scat samples that are being collected with the help of Wildlife Reserves themselves and Acres.

Sunda pangolin action plan

In July experts working in range countries of the Sunda pangolin descended on Wildlife Reserves Singapore to follow a structured workshop to come up with regional action plan.

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It was the first time experts had gathered together in 4 years and there were definitely some familiar faces.

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Creating an action plan can feel like a daunting task for a species classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The first step was to prioritise, identifying the biggest threats and what directly influences them.

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From there is then became an easier to topic to tackle. Splitting into working groups depending on your area of experience participants were tasked with defining objectives and actions for their area. The idea being that these make actions clearer and form a set of steps that can be followed and adapted in the range country people are working.

As part of the working group defining actions and objectives on how to engage and work with local communities, we were particularly keen to not make specific recommendations as such, but produce a series of steps that could be followed to help people decided what actions would be appropriate to take in that area, with that community. This was an attempt to accommodate the wide variety in community attitudes across range countries.

The whole action plan should be completed by September outlining release and rehabilitation protocols; working with local communities; CITES and law enforcement; and demand reduction.

Traditional Leaders’ Weekend

Last weekend was spent at Mkhuze Game Reserve on a Traditional Leaders’weekend with the KwaJobe Community organised by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlfe and Project Rhino with the idea of engaging the community, primarily in the protection of the rhino species in the park. Communities have always found themselves disconnected from happenings in the park and yet with tourism to game reserves representing a high proportion of economic income to the park it is imperative to demonstrate how local communities and reserves can work together so the benefits are seen by all stakeholders.

As the reserve falls just on the most southern end of the range of the Cape pangolin, Smutsia temminckii, it was a great opportunity to share knowledge about the plight of the pangolin so curb the risk of losing it before some people even know what it is.

Representatives from NGOs Project Rhino, Wildlife Act, WildLands, Phinda Game Reserves and Panthera where all present alongside 20 local community leaders.

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Due to its solitary nature, the pangolin runs the risk of becoming extinct before people even realise. The aim of the talk was to introduce the species to local leaders, highlight the plight that they face and why they are important in the ecosystem. Much of the information gathered about the pangolin across the range of all 8 species comes from local communities regarding sightings, uses and potential declines. To date, there is little information from Zulu communities, with even the local name remaining unknown, this weekend represented another opportunity to gather this type of information from community leaders.

From this event we began to gather information about recent and historical sightings, although many of the leaders had no idea what a pangolin was. We gave out postcards as a sign of good luck, as in many cultures that’s exactly what the pangolin represented, which is why they were hadn’t to tribal leaders.

The hope is that this will initiate information sharing between the local community, the park and local NGOs and that, with the help of Rhino Art, we can launch the One More Generation pangolin art campaign to engage local children to protect the pangolin.