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.