The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Protect Wildlife project recently launched a study aimed at conserving the endangered Palawan pangolin.
In close partnership with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), the study is intended to help decision-makers and wildlife enforcers in formulating sound policies in terms of managing the habitat of the mammal.
Dr. Florentino Tesoro of the USAID Protect Wildlife said a research study is now ongoing in the province, and its result will be the basis for the protection of the Palawan pangolin (Manis culionensis) against wildlife trafficking.
“We have to work with the people in the upland to provide us more information on their population, as well as information on their illegal trading. We have to gather data and analyze them for better management of pangolin habitats in Palawan,” he said.
The project will also be in partnership with the Katala Foundation, Inc., and the Philippine Pangolin Research Study.
“Sa mga lugar na ma-e-declare na critical habitat for pangolin ay may ibang pangangalaga na gagawin ang PCSD at iba pang mga katuwang na ahensya,” Tesoro explained.
He said that among the methods in gathering data and information is through the installation of trap camera, key informant interview, and focus group discussions. The study will determine population, density, if there are illegal collection, and trade of pangolin.
“Ang mga nakaraang pananaliksik has been limited where they are concentrated in the northern part of Palawan. This time around, the research will be more in the southern part,” he said.
Endemic to the province, the Palawan pangolin population is decreasing, said Dr. Sabine Schoppe, project director of the Katala Foundation, and a German scientist whose expertise is in the fields of ecology, zoology, and marine biology.
She described the decline as “really very alarming” because hunters are catching two pangolins per month based on data they collected in 2013.
Schoppe said information gathering in Puerto Princesa City, and the municipalities of Dumaran and Taytay revealed then that in intact secondary forests, 10-20 pangolins can be found, while four are present in agricultural areas.
“Pangolins are territorial and are dependent on intact forests. A male pangolin’s territory is in 120 hectares of forest, while a female pangolin’s territory is in an area of 47-75 hectares forest, though there are some overlapping,” Dr. Schoppe explained.
She added that primary forests are the most important habitat of pangolins.
Among the threats to the pangolin’s habitat are the destruction of forest due to slash-and-burn farming by locals, and the conversion of primary and secondary forest.
“The continued hunting endangers our pangolins, and with this study project, we hope to protect them from illegal wildlife trading by coming up with protection regulations and policies,” she warned.
The pangolins are trafficked mainly for their scales, which are believed to treat a variety of health conditions in traditional Chinese medicine, and as a luxury food in some Asian countries.