Finding a lost pangolin and the reality of hunting pressure in the forest.

After four weeks of tracking P33, on 28th May, unfortunately, we lost her signal. This could mean one of four things:

  • She has been eaten by a natural predator
  • She has been hunted
  • She has made a sudden and large movement out of the area we were tracking in
  • The transmitter is damaged/broken.

While staying optimistic, we feel that it is unlikely she was hunted either by human or animal. There was such a short space of time between losing the signal and getting to her den site that we are confident we would have seen some evidence.

So, how are we dealing with the other two options?  Firstly, we have set up camera traps along pathways and clearings near all her recorded den sites. Although pangolins show low fidelity to these den sites (i.e. they don’t usually reuse them within a short space of time) they may well use the familiar pathways when foraging and moving.

Secondly, we have been gradually expanding the area around her home range and walking within 150m of every area of forest. This would give us the best chance of picking up a signal if she was sleeping in a tree hollow. So far we have covered an area 3.8km2, a thorough search, considering her home range covered an area of 0.15km2! However, the most important thing to remember is not to underestimate just how far she could have travelled.

One thing that has really hit home while searching the forest trying to pick up a signal is the extent of the hunting, even in a park as well protected as this one. On our walks we regularly find 3 lines of snare traps, within an area of forest 0.5km2. All snares are destroyed and the location reported to the park officials, however, it has been an eye opening experience seeing firsthand the extent of the hunting and the amount of work that needs to be done to limit it.