Le Lézard
Classified in: Environment
Subjects: PDT, RCY, ANW

Operation Pangolin launches to save world's most trafficked wild mammal


Researchers begin work ahead of World Pangolin Day on Feb. 18

MIAMI, Feb. 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Researchers and conservationists are embarking on a bold initiative to save the world's most trafficked wild mammal ? the pangolin.

With core-funding support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Operation Pangolin has launched in Cameroon and Gabon with plans to expand into Nigeria soon. Among the least studied animals in the world, little is known about the natural history or ecology of the world's eight pangolin species. Even less is known of their role in a significant criminal economy where trafficked pangolins and the illegal sale of their scales and meat often go undetected. Operation Pangolin will generate much-needed data to inform conservation strategies in Central Africa, with global implications for the illicit wildlife trade. The team will then help implement the identified strategies with a plan to expand their efforts into Asia, the only other continent with native pangolin populations.

"Without urgent conservation action at a global scale, all eight species of pangolins face extinction," said project lead Matthew H. Shirley, a conservation ecologist at Florida International University and co-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Pangolin Specialist Group. "Operation Pangolin is a chance to alter the conservation landscape for pangolins and other wildlife threatened by illicit human behavior."

In addition to Shirley, who will focus on ecological monitoring, the research team includes:

The team is developing toolkits for pangolin monitoring and data collection, a critical first step to prevent extinction of these evolutionarily distinct and imperiled mammals. The toolkits will incorporate the latest advancements in hardware and software, while using locally accessible and low-cost technological components. The researchers will work with indigenous peoples, local communities and government agencies to deploy monitoring programs, implement conservation interventions and develop predictive tools for addressing wildlife crime.

The project is supported by the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group, a global network of 189 pangolin technical specialists. The researchers are joining forces with Carla Louise Mousset Moumbolou from the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (Gabon's national parks agency) to lead implementation efforts in Gabon and Andrew Fowler and his team from ZSL (Zoological Society of London) to lead implementation in Cameroon.

"Accurate, actionable data is the foundation of effective conservation efforts," said Gabe Miller, director of technology on behalf of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. "Operation Pangolin will provide a blueprint for how conservationists can turn data into solutions that address important issues like wildlife trafficking and the biodiversity crisis head on."

Throughout history, pangolins have been sustainably used for food and medicine, but overexploitation has exploded in recent decades resulting in threatened status for all eight species. 

Media Contact 
JoAnn Adkins
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SOURCE Florida International University


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