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.
It was an incredible success and I would like to thank the hard work of all attendees and the support of the British High Commission in Brunei.
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.