GOOD NEWS: Pangolin DNA Database is Being Developed to Combat Smuggling

African White-Bellied Tree Pangolin

African White-Bellied Tree Pangolin A baby and a mother at Pangolin Conservation, a nonprofit organization in St. Augustine, Florida. The mammals are illegally killed for bush meat and their scales, which are claimed to have medical value.

This week at the IUCN conference it was announced that the Center for Conservation Biology, at the University of Washington in Seattle, was awarded a grant as part of the USAID Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge. One of 4 grand prize winners. Sam Wasser, Ph.D., and graduate student Hyeon Jong Kim will develop non-invasive genetic tests. Which will allow field researchers to identify what populations and regions poached pangolins originated from. These tests can be instrumental to understand what regions need to be focused on to prevent poaching of pangolins.

Similar techniques have been used to identify “hotspots” of poaching with ivory. genetic samples will be tested to find out what species they represent and where they originated from. If the pangolins are are still alive, it can allow rehabilitators to know the best locations to release them. In the past there have been some issues with rescue centers accepting animals from different regions, and even genetically separate islands, and then releasing them in questionable locations. This technology can resolve that issue.

This is an imperative solution towards pangolin conservation. Pangolins are considered to be one of the world’s most heavily trafficked mammals in the world. In the past decade, the trade in the eight pangolin species found throughout Africa and Asia has increased rapidly and it is believed that over one millions animals have been traded. Pangolins are consumed for several reason. Some people falsely believe the pangolin scales (made out of keratin, the same thing as our fingernails and hair) have medical properties. Other people soldier?? the meat to be a delicacy. In parts of West Africa people think pangolins have supernatural properties. In the past pangolins were used to make boots. Thankfully, the trade in pangolin leather trade no longer occurs.

The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund is also providing funding to support this project. Other partners with this project influe Louise Tomsett, senior curator at the Natural History Museum in London. As well as Samrat Mondol, assistant professor at the Wildlife Institute of India.

Pangolin Conservation has reached out to Dr. Wasser, via email, to provide genetic samples from pangolin populations throughout Togo.

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Article written by the unpaid staff of Pangolin Conservation.