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CURATOR

Conservation Officer, National Trust for Nature Conservation

PINBOARD SUMMARY

Pangolins (Manis species) also known as scaly ant eaters are small mammals found in Asia and Africa. Out of eight species globally four species are found in Asia. More than a million pangolins were illegally traded in past decade which is more than the illegal trade of Elephants, Tigers and Rhinos. The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) inhabit Nepal. While both species are experiencing rapid declines in population due to demand for their scales and meat, surveys in Nepal indicate declining but still healthy populations of pangolins. Due to pangolins’ elusive and nocturnal nature, studying pangolin populations in detail is important but difficult. Hunters throughout southeast Asia including rural Nepal have confirmed their successful use of dogs to track and hunt pangolins providing evidence that dogs can also be used for pangolin conservation. By collecting feces of pangolins, we can determine the species of pangolin and identify individuals providing information on populations, ecology, and genetics. The objectives of our study were to 1) expand the knowledge of pangolins to guide management policies, and 2) to build a framework to combat illegal trade in pangolins using genetic signatures to determine source of poached pangolins and possible trafficking routes. We used scat detection dogs trained to identify and collect pangolin droppings. Two detection dogs and two handlers along with pangolin researchers and local supporters were involved to collect the samples from eastern to western Nepal in 2017. Altogether, we collected 35 pangolin droppings over 203 km of transects and extracted the DNA from each sample. The sequencing indicated all the samples are of pangolins. We are conducting further analysis to prepare genetic signatures and to develop a population baseline so that we can monitor trend over time and also to identify important core conservation areas. We found that the dogs were more effective and efficient to collect samples than were humans alone or camera traps. In some cases they dug to find the scat. Overall, the use of detection dog is a very efficient and cost effective method for pangolin research and conservation.