Posts Tagged ‘Pangolin’

Study will help protect anteater targeted by smugglers

November 3, 2019 published on SUndayTimes on 03.11.2019

Dr. Priyan Perera

A new study has taken the first step in Sri Lanka to shed light on an elusive, solitary mammal that is the world’s most trafficked mammal.

Last year, a live pangolin was rescued from a freezer in Chinese restaurant in Colombo, and the year before that, attempts to smuggle 130kg of pangolin scales that could have come from some 150 animals were found in Kalpitiya.

Pangolins are in high demand in East Asia and there are fears that, particularly with the large Chinese workforce in Sri Lanka, local pangolins are being increasingly targeted for flesh and scales rather than for low-level consumption as bushmeat by local communities.

The pangolin is one of the least studied mammals: there is very little data about their distribution, population or threats. Until now, our information mainly came from a 40-year-old report by W. Phillips.

To fill this void, an islandwide survey by researchers of the University of Sri Jayawardenepura resulted in a paper published last week that shows where these animals live and what threats they face.

Researcher Dr. Priyan Perera said the survey commenced in 2013 with a team conducting interviews with officers of Department of Wildlife Conservation villagers and even a few possible poachers.

The research team also reviewed records of rescued or dead pangolins stored in field offices of the wildlife department records of confiscations by the Department of Customs.

The pangolin is one of the least studied mammals

There are eight pangolin species in the world. The Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), is the species found in Sri Lanka, where it is known as “kebellawa” or “eya” in Sinhala and “alangu” in Tamil.

Pangolins are known as “scaly anteaters” because of the keratinised plate-like protective scales covering much of their bodies, and their highly specialised diet, which predominantly consists of ants and termites.

They coil into a ball when threatened and their scaly body armour usually protects them from the teeth and claws of jungle predators – but not from humans.

Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese “medicines” and this demand has created an illegal wildlife trade around the world.

Because of this, of the four Asiatic species, two are “critically endangered” and the other two are “endangered” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“The over-exploitation of Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) populations in Asia has led to an increase in the hunting of Indian pangolins in India and Pakistan,” Dr. Perera said. Smugglers now threaten Sri Lanka’s pangolin population, he warned.   There have been reported cases of pangolin meat offered for sale in restaurants, especially for Asian workers employed in megadevelopment projects in the country.

“Sri Lanka needs to be vigilant and stop the illegal international trade in pangolin parts before it is too late,” Dr. Perera said.

The study shows the highest number of wildlife crimes related to pangolins was recorded from the Anuradhapura District (13.54 per cent), followed by Polonnaruwa (12.50 per cent), Hambantota (10.42 per cent), Moneragala (9.38 per cent) and Kalutara (8.33 per cent).

The main exploitation threats facing Indian pangolins are hunting for subsistence (47.4 per cent), hunting for bushmeat (27.8 per cent), incidental capture in traps intended for pests (11.3 per cent), hunting for scales (6.2 per cent) and trading of live animals for meat (6.2 per cent).

The study shows pangolins can be found in all parts of the country, up to an elevation of 1850m, mainly in the north-west (Kurunegala and Puttalam districts), the Anuradhapura district and the south-west lowlands and south-east (Hambantota and Monaragala districts).

Pangolins are nocturnal animals and they sleep during the day in burrows, hollows or dens. They are solitary mammals, seldom seen in groups.

They usually give birth to one offspring, on rare occasions, two. The female carries its newborn on its tail. They are caring mothers that coil their bodies around their babies if a threat arises.

Researchers stress this study has important implications in national and global conservation planning of the species.

Pangolins could be at higher risk, warn conservationists

April 7, 2013

By Malaka Rodrigo. Conservationists have called for the protection of pangolins, a type of ant-eater known as “kaballawa” or “eya” after it was named the animal at the highest risk in the National Red List of Threatened Fauna and Flora’s “Near-Threatened” category.�Pangolins are found throughout Sri Lanka and used to be seen living close to human habitation but poaching and habitat loss has sharply reduced their numbers, said Sampath Goonatilake of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sri Lanka.

A wounded pangolin being treated by members of the Galle Conservation Society

The solitary nocturnal animals used to be found in Attidiya and closer to Colombo in the late 1970s and early 1980s but are no longer found there, he said, calling for a thorough study on their numbers to assess their true conservation status.

The pangolin, which is covered with protective scales, uses its very long and sticky tongue to suck out ants and termites from their hiding places. When threatened, it rolls up into a ball to protect itself emits a foul, strong-smelling fluid from its anal scent glands.

Although widely thought to be a reptile, the pangolin is a mammal and is hunted by poachers for its flesh. It often becomes entangled in wire traps set for porcupines and other animals and is also targeted when found emerging from hideouts close to human settlements.

The president of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, Madura de Silva, says the society’s Wild Animal rescue program based at Hiyare, Galle has, over the years, rescued many pangolins caught in traps and given them a new chance of life.

An Indian traveller was nabbed a few months ago trying to smuggle 2.2kg of pangolin scales out of Sri Lanka. The thick, protective scales, made out of kerotene – the same substance as our fingernails – are powdered and used in Chinese medicine.

The wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, says pangolins are the most commonly encountered mammals in the illegal wildlife trade in Asia. They are in high demand in east and south-east Asia, with China and Vietnam identified as the largest consumer nations.
The surging demand for pangolins dealt a massive blow to the species in 2011, with 40,000–60,000 slaughtered that year, according to records compiled by the conservation network, Project Pangolin.

Although the pangolin scales trade is well established in the region, the arrest of the Indian traveller marked the first time an attempt to smuggle pangolin scales was reported from Sri Lanka, said Samantha Gunasekara, the head of Sri Lanka Customs’ Biodiversity, Culture and National Heritage Protection Division.

An Indian was nabbed while trying to smuggle out 2.2 kg of pangolin scales out of Sri Lanka

Mr Goonatilake said conservationists had been finding scales of pangolins left around on sites where they had been poached, so he did not believe the trade in scales was currently an organised business.�But the killing of pangolins for their flesh was a matter of concern, he said, and a proper conservation program was necessary.

Chinese caught with corals at airport

Three Chinese nationals were caught at the Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake last week trying to take out 24 corals.�Their illegal booty was detected when Customs officials stopped and searched them as they were leaving the country on March 28.

The corals were wrapped in wet clothes and had been skilfully extracted, without damage to the base. A few oysters were also found.

The Chinese said they were workers at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport and had collected the corals from the southern coast. They pleaded not knowing that taking corals szx an offence and were allowed to leave for Shanghai with a severe warning.

On March 8, another Chinese man was caught trying to smuggle out about 800 shells and pieces of coral. The Customs Biodiversity Unit said some of the shells belonged to protected species.

Published on SundayTImes 31.03.2013