ConservationPangolin Conservation Update

September 30, 2017

There are eight species of Pangolin – 4 species found in Africa and 4 species found in Asia. All eight species are threatened with extinction in the wild and these amazing animals are among the most illegally trafficked wildlife species in the world.

As previously reported, in 2016 the Virginia Zoo partnered with Dr. Ray Jansen of the African Pangolin Working Group to successfully apply for a grant from the AZA Conservation Grant Fund, to which Virginia Zoo also added a grant match contribution. Our proposal was to research habitat use and natural resource requirements of wild White-bellied Pangolins, and assess how human influence on the landscape can affect them. The objectives of this study will be to determine if:
(1) home range size is dependent on habitat condition,
(2) home range size correlated with food availability,
(3) home range size is dependent on seasonal variation,
(4) home range size varies among sexes, and
(5) home range size is affected by hunting pressure and spatial distribution of roads.

This study will further attempt to model population density and distribution based on home rage attributes, and have a better understanding of the local demand, level of trade and harvesting levels of pangolins within local rural communities.
We are pleased to update you that a field team is now actively working in Ghana for the last two months, mostly connecting with the local communities, hunters and bush meat traders. They have set up base not far from one of the local large tropic forests under semi-protection.

The project team has brought together a team of previous poachers now working to help track White-bellied Pangolins and collect data. We have tagged four white-bellied pangolins and fitted UHF transmitters to them. These transmitters store real-time data as to GPS location, height in the canopy, movement (such as foraging activity), and den location. This has never been recorded for the species before and is a first in fitting transmitters. This technology will not only allow for the movement patterns of Pangolin to be followed, allowing for the calculation of home range and estimation of resource requirements, but will also allow the research team to closely follow the animals and make behavioral observations that have until now been difficult for such rarely seen animals. A report is currently being prepared by the project team and we will share more information when it becomes available.