Over the past year I have been working alongside Ecology Dogs in the UK and Wildlife Reserves, Singapore on a project to use trained dogs to find pangolin scat.
The plan starts with a test phase in the UK, where it will be determined if there is a significant difference between the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in captive and wild scat samples and those from an artificial captive diet and a more natural captive diet. This will then be used to determine if captive scat can be used to train dogs to successfully find wild scat in the forest.
Following on from that dog will be sourced from the UK where it will be partly trained with the samples before being transferred over to Singapore where an individual will be selected and trained to work with the dog and where field testing will occur.
The diet change of the captive pangolins at Singapore Night Safari was successfully completed and samples from captive animals were collected from the beginning of October 2016. This means we have samples of captive scat on two different diets.
A local UK zoo, Colchester Zoo, has formally agreed to supply discrimination scat from their captive ant eater as the diet it is provided is similar to the artificial diet used by institutions housing pangolin.
We now await our final two wild scat samples that are being collected with the help of Wildlife Reserves themselves and Acres.
In July experts working in range countries of the Sunda pangolin descended on Wildlife Reserves Singapore to follow a structured workshop to come up with regional action plan.
It was the first time experts had gathered together in 4 years and there were definitely some familiar faces.
Creating an action plan can feel like a daunting task for a species classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The first step was to prioritise, identifying the biggest threats and what directly influences them.
From there is then became an easier to topic to tackle. Splitting into working groups depending on your area of experience participants were tasked with defining objectives and actions for their area. The idea being that these make actions clearer and form a set of steps that can be followed and adapted in the range country people are working.
As part of the working group defining actions and objectives on how to engage and work with local communities, we were particularly keen to not make specific recommendations as such, but produce a series of steps that could be followed to help people decided what actions would be appropriate to take in that area, with that community. This was an attempt to accommodate the wide variety in community attitudes across range countries.
The whole action plan should be completed by September outlining release and rehabilitation protocols; working with local communities; CITES and law enforcement; and demand reduction.