Giving pangolins a voice
EDGE Programme Manager, Carly Waterman, and EDGE Fellow, Ambika Khatiwada, attended the recent IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group Conservation Conference in Singapore. The conference provided a unique opportunity for pangolin researchers and conservationists in Africa, Asia and Europe to present their work, share ideas and develop a conservation strategy to address the threats to pangolins worldwide.
Attended by 40 participants from 14 countries, the conference served as a real wake-up call to the international conservation community. Participants concluded that all eight species of pangolin are far more threatened than currently recognised. The Chinese pangolin, ranked 91 on the EDGE mammals list, was once abundant in China but has now virtually disappeared from the country, a victim of massive overexploitation for its meat and scales. Recent decades have seen demand shift to the Sunda pangolin, another Asian EDGE species, but as populations of this species decline, pangolins are now increasingly being sourced from even further afield – the Philippines, India and even Africa.
The plight of the pangolin mirrors that of other wildlife species traded for their meat or body parts. African elephants and rhinos are under increasing threat from intercontinental trade to Asia and evidence from pangolin seizures over the past few years indicates that such trade is a real and growing threat to the four African pangolin species. Highly evolutionarily distinct, the four African pangolins may soon receive the dubious honour of being labelled EDGE species in the near future.
Despite the alarming findings, the conference did end on a high note. It’s not too late to save pangolins, and if the dedication and determination of the participants is anything to go by, they will be receiving a lot more attention over the coming months and years. Future work will focus on understanding and addressing demand for pangolins, along with increasing legislation and enforcement in range states and pangolin trade hotspots. This will be coupled with increased monitoring and protection efforts on the ground, focusing in particular on pangolin strongholds, which were identified for all eight pangolin species.
Finally pangolins have been given a voice on the global stage. Let’s hope the audience will sit up and take notice.