ZSL launches new Philippine pangolin project as serious concerns rise for the species.
A new conservation and research project launches today bringing together ZSL and other key collaborators to halt the decline of the Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis). Endemic to the Palawan faunal region it is classified as one of eight species of pangolin currently threatened with extinction.
Pangolin populations are estimated to have halved over the past 30 years, with unsustainable poaching linked to the use of their scales in traditional Chinese medicine - as well as the consideration of their meat as a luxury food item. Recent price increases for live animals have led to a greater harvest of the Philippine species, whose trafficking relates to areas such as China and Malaysia, causing even more concern and an urgency to protect this Endangered species.
ZSL Pangolin Researcher, Lucy Archer said: “Based on recent seizures, we know that the Philippine pangolin is hunted and traded in the region. However, we currently have little knowledge on the intricacies of this trade and the threat it places upon the species. This project will aim to address this by providing new data on the anthropogenic threats the Philippine pangolin faces, in order to help prioritise and plan conservation action.”
Thanks to new generous support from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and an anonymous donor, the first conservation strategy for the species has now been developed, pulling in expertise from a wide range of stakeholders, including indigenous peoples, the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group, Katala Foundation Inc., the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), and experts from around the world. With this, key objectives set for ZSL’s project including: identifying key pangolin conservation areas, designating and piloting one of these areas as a Local Pangolin Conservation Area (LPCA) and reducing pangolin trafficking through increased law enforcement upon border controls.
ZSL Philippines Country Manager, Godofredo Villapando, said: “We know at least 1,000 Philippine pangolins have been illegally traded since 2000, despite international trade bans. These extraordinary animals represent 80 million years of evolutionary history, yet we know very little about them. We hope this project will help us to understand more about the distribution, abundance and lifecycle of the species, alongside information that will help to reverse their decline”.
The Philippine pangolin is one of only three species of pangolin that spend their life both, on the ground and in the trees – making monitoring the species even more challenging. They also have a highly specialised diet eating termites and ants. The name ‘pangolin’ comes from the Malay word ‘pengguling’, meaning ‘the roller’, which describes the pangolin’s self-defence method of rolling into a ball when it feels threatened.