Pangolin conservation in Sumatra

If we cast our minds back to April in 2015 we are reminded of the awful situation where near to 1,000 pangolins were uncovered in a warehouse in Medan, North Sumatra with photos of carcasses burning in deep pits circulating social media. Accompanying that were photos of around 100 lucky individuals being set free, back in the forest.

The world of conservation is a small one and via colleagues I was put in contact with a local guy running a small NGO and got set on the task of doing something to support pangolin conservation in the area. The first step was visiting in the summer of 2015.

The visit, although brief, included a trip to a local village near to where the animals were released. What we found put was heartbreaking. Most of the animals were re-poached, the locals new that they were being released there.

While it is admirable that authorities and organisations are working together to uncover the illegal trade. Poor placement of animals post confiscation means that many are released in poor condition and without any consideration of habitat requirements, adequate distribution or the attitudes and proximity of local communities.

So it starts, we have a small amount of funding to begin work and our hoping to secure some more in the imminent future. The objectives of the project are as follows:

  1. Investigate, collect information, conduct social surveys and collecting as much information about sightings – where, when and how many were seen in private captivity or in markets.
  2. Assisting BKSDA (Natural Resources Conservation Centre) and police officials during the confiscation of selected individuals of pangolin from private owners or from bird markets and advising on where to release them.
  3. Begin developing an ISCP Rehabilitation and Quarantine centre in Bandar Baru (Sumatra).
  4. Raise awareness of local communities and government institutions about conservation issues regarding pangolin and other wildlife in Sibolangit district and across north Sumatra. The focus will be at those villages in Sibolangit district which have populations of pangolin in the area.

Pangolins are not the only species that the Indonesian Species Conservation Program (ISCP) work on. They have started by supporting the conservation of the slow loris. Please check out the work of Project Kukang.