Conservation and protection efforts for the Palawan pangolin go hand-in-hand with research confidentiality surrounding the species.

A representative for the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) said that this was the rationale behind the closed-group of stakeholders who were invited during the 1st Pangolin Summit in Palawan, held on June 18-19. The event aimed to provide updates on, among other things, the natural habitat of the endangered species.

The summit was organized by the PCSDS in collaboration with USAID’s Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Ocean, and Landscapes (SIBOL), and had the theme: “Conservation through Collaboration: Safeguarding Pangolins and their Natural Habitat.”

The summit brought together local stakeholders to update them on progress and acknowledge recent conservation efforts for the pangolin, along with updating the 25-year Strategic Conservation Plan and Management for Palawan.

The species, locally known as “balintong,” is listed as a “critically endangered species” in both the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and PCSD Resolution No. 15-521, due to its scales. Endemic to Palawan, its population has reached critical levels because it is defenseless against hunters who traffic them.

The Palawan pangolin rolls itself into a ball whenever it is threatened. While this action deters natural predators, the light brown scales and shape of the wildlife species make it easier for humans to pick them up from their habitats and put them up for illegal sale and trade.

Several local environmental protection groups, such as the Katala Foundation, USAID SIBOL, academic sectors, and other nature and wildlife organizations have been involved with the balintong’s care over the years, as per Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

However, PCSDS spokesperson Jovic Fabello stated that these wildlife conservation organizations rarely had the opportunity to collate their recent research efforts on the balintong, due to their focus on other species under their care, and the need to keep the balintong’s habitat a secret from poachers.

Fabello noted that while the recent change in weather from El Niño to La Niña affected the pangolin’s movements with regards to their habitat, he could not divulge the exact patterns and recent data outside of the actual summit.

“Masyado pang malawak yung range ng mga habitat ng pangolin sa Palawan. Ayon sa mga pag-aaral sa isang square kilometer, masyadong malaki, makikita mo lang isa o hanggang apat na pangolin,” he said.

“May mga datos na pinag-aaralan ngayon patungkol doon, (…) pero di natin pwede i-divulge kung saan mismo matatagpuan ang etong mga tirahan ng ating mga pangolin kasi pagka-inannounce na ito, madali na lang silang makita,” Fabello added.

Fabello also emphasized the presence of law enforcement authorities during the summit. He said that most were not aware of their own department’s initiatives towards wildlife protection, and that the summit provided thorough analysis on how these local units could identify wildlife-related crimes and apprehend those who committed such acts.

Furthermore, the summit covered updates regarding the 25-year implementation of the Strategic Conservation Plan launched in 2018, updating several goals to reflect progress in technology and actionable recommendations for balintong protection efforts.