Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade

by Wildlife Trust of India
Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Save Pangolins from the Illegal Wildlife Trade
Collating information from children in Udaipur!
Collating information from children in Udaipur!

Indian Pangolins as a species are nocturnal, notoriously shy, and spend most of the day hiding in burrows and tree hollows. There is scant information about its biology and ecology; however, from the recent spate of seizures from airports and international borders, it is apparent they are among the most illegally traded species in India and the world. Their shy nature may help them hide from a careful conservationist, their scales provide excellent protection from predators, but the pangolins’ natural defences clearly cannot protect them from determined poachers who, following their distinctive footprints (the front claws curve inwards as they walk) use trained hunting dogs to sniff out their burrows. Traps are then laid to capture them as they move out for food at night, or they are smoked out.

In the state of Rajasthan, local reports indicated the presence of an established illegal trade network through which pangolins were poached for their scales and exported outside the state and country to meet the persistent international demand. To learn more about this network, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) started a Rapid Action Project (RAP) with your support. The focus was on gathering information about the illegal trade in pangolin parts and raising awareness about the animal in targeted sites in the state. Specific locations of south Rajasthan were selected under the ambit of the project based on local intelligence and forest department records of both pangolin sightings and  seized contraband. The targeted sites for the project were Udaipur, Kumbalgarh National Park, Rajsamand, Pali, Pratapgarh, Dungarpur, Banswara, Mount Abu, Sirohi and Chittorgarh.

Forty nine villages and forty seven schools were visited in the targeted sites to sensitise children about the ecological importance of pangolins and the urgent need for their conservation. These sensitisation programs also aided the project team in identifying the tribes involved in the illegal pangolin trade, and the key trade routes that were being utilised by them.

The project team established a network of 19 informers, called Troopers, in selected villages. The intelligence derived from the Troopers revealed that 12 local tribes were involved in the poaching and trade of pangolins in the targeted sites: Bhil, Meena, Rawat, Bawari, Kathoodi, Bawari, Kanjar, Kalbelia, Bhil Meena, Sapera, Jogi and Garsiya. Having received information on the various tribes, the project team put emphasis on identifying the routes and modes that were being utilised by poachers for the illegal trade within and outside Rajasthan.

A comprehensive investigation by the Troopers and the project team proved that poachers use forest roads, bus routes to transport live pangolins and scales from Rajasthan into Gujarat. From Gujarat, the illegal wildlife items are smuggled via the sea route to any destination across the world through the Kandla Port.

WTI’s local network of Troopers, established through this Rapid Action Project, will continue to gather information about the pangolin trade and and assist  forest department in putting a stop to it

Sensitization in Bagpura village
Sensitization in Bagpura village
An ongoing discussion with Troopers
An ongoing discussion with Troopers
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Team sensitizing the students on Pangolin Day
Team sensitizing the students on Pangolin Day

Pangolin is the world’s most trafficked animal and is facing imminent threat for its survival. The biggest threat to pangolins emanates from the illegal and commercial hunting, meant for human consumption (as TCM) as well as for making products derived from its body parts (especially scales). As per International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN),  Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is listed as Endangered, while classified as Schedule-1 under India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. With limited information about the species, and an even greater void of knowledge about the illicit trade, protecting the pangolin population is an arduous task for any conservation body. To address this, WTI undertook a nationwide study and found few Indian states where Pangolin trade is prevalent. The state of Rajasthan (among other states) was reported to be a source for the trade and thus, we focussed on increasing the awareness levels about pangolins in the region. The project targeted local communities, especially school children and concerned officials (forest and police etc.) with an aim that once sensitized about pangolin conservation they can themselves join and involved in conservation action.

In few districts of Rajasthan, the team undertook sensitization camps in many urban and rural schools. Among other animals, photographs of pangolin were shown and only few were able to identify it as “Cheentikhor” (Ant eater). Therefore, the team provided basic information about the animal with reference to its habitat, sighting, threats etc. To build a healthy relation with the local children, team visited a tribal children hostel, conducted few sports activities with them. Some of them identified as well as mentioned the areas where pangolins could be sighted and are being killed for bushmeat and other purposes.

Additional twelve villages and sixteen schools were visited to sensitize the locals about the importance of this majestic animal in their crop farms as they perform the role of a “pest controller”.

World Pangolin Day on 18th February was also celebrated with much fanfare, where drawing and essay writing competitions were organised to spread awareness about this endangered species amongst the new generation. With a theme of “Draw the Pangolin” students took part in the competitions enthusiastically and expressed their knowledge about the pangolin on paper. Best drawings were selected by the School Principal and one representative from the team. More such events are being planned to engage as many people and motivate them towards the conservation of pangolin.

Students recognising the pangolin on display board
Students recognising the pangolin on display board
Pangolin sketches by the students
Pangolin sketches by the students
A clay model of Pangolin made by a student
A clay model of Pangolin made by a student
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Organization Information

Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Samruddhi Kothari
Assistant Manager
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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