World Pangolin Day
By Gemma Annan, Volunteer leader
Every 3rd Saturday in February is World Pangolin Day, what’s a pangolin? You may ask! Well that’s the question volunteers asked when I suggested we celebrate it-awareness was needed.
Pangolins are often referred to as scaly anteaters but are in fact in a family of their own (Manidae); there are 8 subspecies, three existing in Africa and five in Asia. In Thailand the Malayan (also known as the Sundra pangolin) pangolin exists but has thought to off declined by 50% since 1990 due to habitat loss and poaching for meat, alcohol, Chinese medicines and traditional believes.
Pangolins are fascinating mammals but little is known of their behaviours due to their nocturnal, solitary, secretive nature and dwindling numbers. The Malayan pangolin once existed in Huay Pakoot forest but was hunted here for meat. Although no signs have been sighted for a year there is still a chance pangolins exist in the forest in Huay Pakoot. They sleep in burrows or more commonly in tree hollows in forests and have distinct feet tracks so during hikes in the forest my eyes are peeled looking for evidence they may still live here.
Chelsea and Mikaela took on the role of organising World Pangolin Day in the village. They spent time researching the behaviour and conservation efforts of pangolins in general with a focus on the Malayan pangolin. They created a near life size model which has been named Percy the pangolin, decorative signs and a power point presentation. They got all volunteers involved by getting them to write up an interesting pangolin fact each and hiding them around base. The highly interesting presentation educated all volunteers not only about interesting facts and known behaviours but also of the plight of the pangolin and efforts being made to try and avoid populations declining further.
Awareness is a great way to try and begin to protect such an important and fascinating animal.
Interesting pangolin facts:-
o Pangolins are very important to their ecosystems; maintaining insect numbers by consuming up to 70 million insects per year. Their main diet consists of termites and ants but also eat bee larvae, flies, worms, earthworms, and crickets.
o Pangolins often walk on their hind legs, using their tail for balance as their front feet have three very long claws which make it difficult for walking. They can run surprisingly fast.
o Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same material as our hair and fingernails. The scales grow continuously throughout their life.
o Pangolins lack teeth but have a long sticky tongue, when fully extended it can be up to 16 inches longer than the entyre length of the body (including tail).
o Pangolins can close their nostrils and ears to keep insects out!
o Scales weigh 20% of pangolins body weight.
o The name “pangolin” is derived from the Malay word “Pengguling”, which loosely translates to “Something that rolls up”.
o Rolling up into tight a ball is the pangolin main defence mechanism, if caught they will trash their tail in order to cut the predator as the scales are very sharp. They can also secrete stinky fluids from special scent glands to deter predators.
There are different organisations, governments, wildlife authorities and local communities that together try to save the pangolin.
CITES is the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. They protect the animals from commercial trade and selling. In the year 2000 CITES decided that there is a zero export of Asian pangolins in the world. Despite these legal protections, pangolins are one of the most illegally traded animals in Southeast Asia. It is protected by national legislation in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Pangolin Conservation Support Initiative (PCSI) is a big pangolin conservation organisation. They help by sponsoring pangolin conservation programs in Southeast Asia. Their main goal is to raise awareness of the illegal trade with pangolins both in Asia and the rest of the world. Their website is www.SavePangolins.org.
– Percy the pangolin
Volunteers making their fact signs
Chelsea and Mikaela giving their presentation –