Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 152511949
Building a geo-referenced genetic map of pangolins across their range to assign geographic origin to pangolin seizures.
Wildlife trafficking has become a global problem with links to transnational organized crime resulting in unsustainable levels of poaching. Pangolins are caught in this illicit trade driven largely by demand in Asia for their meat eaten as a delicacy and scales used for traditional medicine. Estimates show that more than a million animals were poached in seven years. The large volume of recent seizures has earned pangolins the status as the most trafficked mammal in the world. However, there is very little information about the pangolins.
Through this project, we aim to increase our knowledge of the Chinese and Sunda pangolins in Vietnam in three steps:
1. Determine current range of the Chinese and Sunda pangolins;
2. Identify pangolin strongholds that support wild pangolin populations; and
3. Create a geo-referenced DNA map, used to assign geographic origin to seized pangolin parts in the illegal wildlife trade.
In order to study these elusive animals, we will be using Conservation Canines, specially trained scat detection dogs. These detection dogs are trained to find fecal samples from multiple species simultaneously across large, remote areas. Two detection dog teams will sample for pangolins scats in three national parks across Vietnam. We are starting the sampling in Cat Tien National Park, which is home to Sunda pangolins. Then we will sample Pu Mat National Park where both species of pangolins are found. We will finish sampling in northern Vietnam in Na Hang Nature Reserve where there is evidence of Chinese pangolins.
Once the fecal samples are collected, DNA will be extracted to conduct genetic analyses. Each scat samples will be identified to the species and individual level. With this information, we can help design targeted management policies by identifying key pangolin habitat for each species and thus, prioritize conservation of areas with high density of pangolins. The DNA profiles will be used to create a comprehensive genetic reference map to help assign origin to pangolin seizures.