For the last six months, our research team has been carrying a very interesting quest: Looking for the trace of Chinese Pangolins in Vietnam.
First we started with four provinces around Ninh Binh – where we are based. With 200 interviews conducted, our research team is currently interviewing locals with expert knowledge of the forest and rangers to gather recent records of the presence of Chinese Pangolins in these locations.
From December 2016 to January 2017, Mai Anh, our Field Research Officer, travelled to Central Vietnam to look for evidence of the Chinese pangolin among communities around Song Tranh and Sao La Nature Reserves. She interviewed many hunters and people with knowledge of the local forests, all belonging to the ethnic minorities if the Central region, including Co Tu, Ve, Ta Oi and Pa Co communities.
She has found approximately 80% of interviewees believe that they have recently seen two species in the surrounding areas and they have positively identified the Chinese pangolin as being one of them. There is also solid evidence that they are actively being hunted and used for consumption and that being close to the border with Lao, individuals will also cross over to hunt in the forests there. Another issue is the closeness of the Ho Chi Minh Highway, the primary North-South road of the country, to Sao La Nature Reserve, making monitoring hunter access extremely difficult for park authorities.
However, she has also found many communities to be very open with her and friendly, honestly sharing with her their needs, which is encouraging for future research activities, not only in finding the Chinese pangolin, but in community outreach too.
Mai Anh interviewed a total of 160 hunters and people with expert knowledge of the focal subject interviewed during the study. Of those, 91% were hunters who had seen the Chinese pangolin before. The study has revealed greater local knowledge about the species in particular areas, specifically a greater knowledge of Manis pentadactyla and its continued, though declining presence in Sao La – Hue Natural Reserve, Song Thanh Natural Reserve– Quang Nam and Pu Mat National Park in Nghe An.
From March 2017, the project moved to another next stage: looking for living Chinese pangolins, their spoor and dens. Bryn, our Research Mananger and Dung, our Senior Field Researcher travelled back and forth between Na Hang and Pu Mat reserve’s forests.
Once completed the team will be able to identify the strongholds of Chinese pangolin and understand the conservation status of Chinese pangolins in Vietnam, which leads to further actions to save this species.