THE PANGOLIN: WORLD'S MOST TRAFFICKED MAMMAL
In 2016, the Pangolin gained the unenviable status of becoming the most trafficked mammal species in the world. In just the last decade, more than 1 million pangolins were killed for meat and their keratin scales. The scale, which is made of the same material as rhinoceros horn and the human fingernail, is used in traditional medicine, fetching over $1,000 per kilo in illegal markets. Pangolin meat, especially the meat of fetuses, is considered a prized delicacy in China, Vietnam and the Philippines, further driving extinction of Pangolins. It is now believed that global trafficking of Pangolins accounts for $4 billion, or 20%, of the $20 billion wildlife trafficking industry. This is despite a full commercial ban on the trade of all 8 species of Pangolin, which were placed on CITES Appendix I (species threatened with extinction) in 2017. Without immediate action, pangolins may be poached to extinction within the coming decades.
A UNIQUE SPECIES FACING EXTINCTION
Pangolins are evolutionarily unique. Often mistaken as reptiles because of the tough, overlapping scales, they are the world's only scaly mammal. Pangolin fossils have been found dating back to the Eocene era, 35-55 million years ago, just after the dinosaurs went extinct. The incredible evolutionary longevity of Pangolins is partially due to a special ability to curl up into an impenetrable ball, resembling a large pine cone, when they feel threatened. However, being naturally shy, this adaptation doesn't protect them from being simply picked up and captured. Thus, they truly have only 1 natural predator: humans. Poaching for illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss have made these incredible creatures one of the most endangered groups of mammals in the world.
2 SPECIES OF PANGOLIN ARE FOUND IN NEPAL
Two species of Pangolin are found in Nepal: Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata). As noted in the IUCN Red List, the Chinese Pangolin is now critically endangered (CR) and the Indian Pangolin is endangered (EN). Both species are nocturnal and burrow deep holes in the ground where they live in families: an important benefit to the ecosystem as the tunnels they burrow underground mix and aerate soil and may even help to recharge aquifers. One single pangolin can also consume as many as 70 million insects per year, including termites and ants. The pangolin is a natural pest controller!
YANGSHILA: CRITICAL HABITAT FOR PANGOLINS AND MANY OTHER SPECIES
KTK-BELT, a US-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, has been working in Yangshila, Morang in eastern Nepal since 2015. This region is one of the most critical remaining habitats in the world for Indian and Chinese pangolins, and also part of the Eastern Himalayas biodiversity hotspot. In addition to Pangolins, the old growth forests of Maharaje, Yangshila (900 – 1,500 m) harbor hundreds of plant species and habitat for globally threatened species like Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak), (LC), Spotted Linsang (Prionodon pardicolor) (LC), Bengal Fox (Vulpes bengalensis) (LC) and Common Leopard (Panthera padres) (VU), as well as numerous pollinators and rare wildflowers.
THE THREAT FROM LAND GRABBERS
Recently, in January 2018, these forests, which contain underground pangolin tunnels, came under threat of land grabbing by developers from nearby cities. The developes want to convert three heavily forested land parcels totaling 22 acres and containing 361 unique plant species (including 250 different types of trees), and numerous natural springs and a wetland, into mono-crop agriculture. Concerned about the threat to this sensitive and important habitat, KTK-BELT, working with its local partner Yangshila Permaculture Learning Grounds (YPLG), launched a campaign to purchase the land for the community. Over 40 acres of habitat adjacent to this forest, harboring orchids, flowering lianas, and many rare bamboo and rattan species, has been protected over the last 2 years, and the targeted land parcels would help connect a much larger conservation landscape for Pangolins.
$30,000 MATCHING GRANT FROM QRBF
The total cost to acquire the 3 plots is approximately $51,000, of which $30,000 has been committed as a matching challenge grant by the Quick Response Biodiversity Fund (QRBF), an initiative of the Weeden Foundation and RESOLVE. This timely support has helped secure the option to the land, but $21,000 in additional funds is needed to fully acquire the land to keep it in the community and out of the hands of land grabbers.
HOW YOU CAN HELP RIGHT NOW!
If we can raise the $30,000 target by the deadline, this would secure the land, fund installation of conservation signage, and support public murals and art work to sensitize local people to the global threats facing Pangolins and the urgent need for conservation. Any additional funds raised beyond the $30,000 will fund purchase of additional acres of Pangolin forest in northern Morang. With technical and financial support from our partners, Greater Good, One More Generation (OMG), and Pangolin Conservationist Louise Fletcher, we have been able to support art education modules centered on Pangolin conservation, raising awareness among youth. We need the global community to help us safeguard this critical forest in Maharaje, Yangshila and prevent the extinction of two incredible and important species that have survived for millions of years!
Donations over $100 will receive a Pangolin tote bag designed by Bora Studio, Kathmandu!
Photo Credits: Paul Hilton, WildAid, X-S Zhang PSBF, Zeeshan Merchant, Ganga Limbu