Members of CPCP recently flew over to Singapore to attend the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group Conference. This was a great opportunity to not only present our work, but broaden our knowledge regarding all aspects of pangolin conservation across all species.
It was particularly interesting to talk to fellow researchers in Namibia working with the Cape (Temminck’s ground) Pangolin as they too have been using VHF radio tracking to investigate the movements, behaviour and survival of pangolins in different African habitats. Although we are dealing with similar technical difficulties, the habitats themselves provided some very different obstacles: while we face the threat of vipers and banded kraits, they face the threat of encountering Rhinos!
I would strongly recommend reading their blog as the sort of data they are collecting is what we here at CPCP are aspiring to http://pangolins-namibia.blogspot.com/. An interesting comparison is the huge difference in range size recorded between a released Cape Pangolin (Otto) and our released Sunda Pangolin (P33). In the first week of release Otto cover 12km in a round-about way, whereas P33 was averaging 100m per night.
There was also great exchange from people all over Asia trying to determine population estimates of pangolin species. This is an important, although time consuming and challenging activity. However, once population estimates are made, it becomes possible to track trends over time. This is an important consideration; currently the predicted decline of pangolins is based on trends reported by hunters and trade data and these feed into the assessments for the IUCN Red List http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12763/0. Developing universal population monitoring protocols or even establishing a universal method for collecting presence absence data is an important step forward. However, as anyone working with pangolins will tell you this is far easier said than done!
Finally, an aspect that I found particularly interesting, as my knowledge about it was limited, was the sheer demand for pangolin meat and scales that is driving the trade. The demand is so much that pangolins are now being sourced from Africa. The African Pangolin Working Group http://pangolin.org.za/ are working hard to map past and present distributions of pangolins in Africa alongside increasing the understanding of the deep rooted cultural beliefs associated with the use of pangolin in traditional medicines. This is an important consideration as by understanding what beliefs and perceptions drive the demand can any form of attitudinal change begin driven by residents of those consumer countries.
Overall it was an enlightening experience, for which we are grateful to be a part of. There are many other organisations who we would like to thank for taking the time to share thoughts and ideas, many of which we looking forward to implementing in the immediate future.