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Gillian Fuller

SVW Winter-spring survey for small carnivores and pangolins (2011)

2011, Report on the winter – spring survey for small carnivores and pangolins in the Ngoc Son – Ngo Luong Nature Reserve, Hoa Binh province, Vietnam’
Field Report

Description: Willcox, D, Do, TH, Tran, QP 2011, Report on the winter – spring survey for small carnivores and pangolins in the Ngoc Son – Ngo Luong Nature Reserve, Hoa Binh province, Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program, Vietnam. Field Report

Keywords: Pangolin, small carnivores, threatened species, Vietnam

The case against pangolin farming

Pangolin in wire cage

Pangolin farming is not a viable conservation solution. Director, Thai Van Nguyen explains why.

There has been increasing pressure from Chinese pharmaceutical companies to allow pangolin farming in habitat states in Asia and Africa.

SVW was invited to lead discussion on breeding pangolins for commercial purposes with the Vietnamese government and other pangolin range states at the Range State Meeting, June 2015 in Da Nang. We also advised key government officials individually. In 2016, as a vice chair of IUCN Pangolin specialist group we led on a submission (signed by 52 other organisations) to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre and Uganda Wildlife Authority opposing a proposal from Chinese pharmaceutical company, Asia-Africa Pangolin Breeding Research Centre Limited to commercially breed pangolins in Uganda. The proposal was denied.

We do not support pangolin farming. There are many lessons to be learnt from the farming of other wildlife species which is very different to highly controlled non-commercial breeding that supports the conservation of wild populations. Farming pangolins would create more problems for pangolin conservation. It would:

– increase hunting pangolins as source animals for farms

– increase demand for pangolins by creating a legal market

– wild pangolin products become ‘premium’ and in demand

– add further challenges in law enforcement because identification between the wild pangolins and farmed pangolins would be impossible to regulate.

It would not be financially viable for the following reasons:
– due to lack understanding of wild ecology pangolins have a high mortality rate in captivity

– low fecundity: 1 baby per litter and gestation is over 6 months

More quarantine enclosures to deal with increased pangolin confiscations

A cement room furnished with tree branches

As the illegal wildlife trade continues, confiscations increase and we expand our facilities to cope with more pangolins and small carnivores.

2016 has seen a large rise in confiscated pangolins being transferred to our rescue centre in Cuc Phuong National Park. In 2016 we have received over 250 pangolins and 10 small carnivores to our centre which have sometimes stretched our capacity. We have just completed the building of 12 new quarantine enclosures to cope with the increased demand.
The new multi-functional enclosures can house pangolins and small carnivores and bring to a total of 32 quarantine enclosures in addition to existing enclosures for our longer term residents who cannot be released due to health or safety reasons.

Quarantine building almost complete

The quarantine enclosures are for short term residents of our centre. Once an animal is transferred to us, it spends generally 20- 30 days in quarantine while its health is monitored prior to its release back to a safe habitat in the wild.
Critically endangered pangolins are very susceptible to captive stress and have very special housing requirements. They need safe climbing space, a sleeping burrow where they can feel safe and secure (and warm in winter), and easy access for keepers so they can monitor pangolins with minimum disruption while they are recovering from wound injuries, digestive problems, stress and dehydration that are common in confiscated animals.

Digging the foundations for the new quarantine building

The quarantine enclosures are designed to house two animals at a time if required, however ideally we house animals individually. This is because pangolins are solitary animals and most do better when housed alone. Although on some occasions we have observed that some pangolins prefer a companion in their enclosure. Mothers and pups remain together until the pup is independent and ready for release. This may take up to six or nine months and so these animals are moved to a larger pangolarium while awaiting their eventual release back to wild.

All Pangolin Species Uplisted to Appendix 1

Table with save vietnam's wildlife name tag

Finally, new protections and new hope for all pangolin species acheived at CitesCOP17 held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

After a week of hard work, collaborating with other NGOs, lobbying all CITES parties, Thai, Save Vietnam’s Executive Director, finally witnessed the victory moment for Pangolins: four Asian and four African species were moved to Appendix I. He shared his thoughts afterwards: We would like to thank all parties who made a great contribution for pangolin conservation efforts. Thank you to all organizations who worked very hard to achieved our mission.”

These are some benefits from Appendix I for pangolins:

  • international trade for wild specimens is banned
  • greater protection in all countries
  • clear messages to consumers
  • increases the domestic protection for enforcement priority for the species as many CITES parties use CITES to apply national law
  • reduce the complexity of enforcing our national laws, will reduce the workload associated with the interception of pangolin products as all punishments will be the same
  • more investment from government and NGOs to address issues to save the species from extinction.

It is the first time ever that all NGOs shared the same goal to work hard to support the uplisting of all 8 pangolin species to CITES Appendix I. At the CITES CoP17 – South Africa, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife presented evidence of the increasing pangolin trade and the high demand of pangolin meat and scales in Asia. We also actively lobbied the CITES parties to help them understand the seriousness of the pangolin crisis so that they would support pangolin conservation. Before CoP17, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife also presented on the challenges of pangolin conservation at the first pangolin range start meeting in Vietnam, Sixty-fifth meeting of the Standing Committee – Switzerland, and the IUCN Wildlife Conservation Congress – Hawaii. Uplisting all 8 pangolin species to Appendix I is a victory for us and for other organizations and parties.

The uplisting is not a solution to the wildlife trade but it is vital first step in combatting the trade. We, along with other Vietnamese NGOs will be working to ensure that enforcement is strengthened so that these new regulations will be implemented.