15 Sunda Pangolins rescued closed to the border with Laos

SVW’s Rapid Response Team just rescued 15 Sunda Pangolins close to the border with Laos!

Hai, SVW’s veterinarian, was at home and saw on the news that 15 pangolins were confiscated near the border with Laos. The army partols the border between Laos and Vietnam and they had seen four people carrying backpacks across the border. When the poachers realised they were spotted, they left the backpacks behind and ran into the forest to hide.

Hai called SVW’s director Thai, who contacted the ranger station. This was the first time that this ranger station confiscated pangolins, so it was a bit challenging to convince them to cooperate with us. The rangers tried to do the best thing for the pangolins, so after Thai contacted the head of the FPD, the rangers knew that they could trust us to come and look after the pangolins. Upon arrival, SVW’s Rapid Response Team freed the pangolins from the bags, provided them with emergency care and gave them food and water. The poachers were never caught, so we will never know for sure, but we think that the pangolins were captured in Laos. They look very healthy and weren’t force fed by traders to increase their weight, like we usually see.

It took a while before the rangers organised and signed all the paperwork, but after four long days of taking care of the pangolins at the confiscation site, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife was finally able to take the 15 pangolins back to our wildlife rescue center. The pangolins arrived this morning, looking healthy and now the process of rehabilitation can start. We are hopeful that all of these pangolins can be released back to the wild after their quarantine period. We will keep you updated on their progress!

Finding Pangolin Using Detector Dog Project: Completed

Dog detection project

A two-month project looking for pangolins collaborating between University of Washington and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife using detection dogs has just come to the final stage.

The project:

Two teams of detector dogs, one dog and one handler each, from Conservation Canines in the US arrived in Vietnam to sniff out wild pangolin scat. Collected samples would then be genetically analysed from species and population, down to individuals level. The aim being to create the basis for a genetic population map, allowing authorities to identify where confiscations were originally taken from and therefore focus enforcement activities.

After a 2 month field project in 3 locations, from South Vietnam all the way to the North, the dog teams have finally returned to the US.

The findings:

Disappointingly, sample numbers throughout the project were far lower than expected; with only 1 wild Sunda pangolin scat sample being found in Cat Tien National Park. The teams trained the dogs using sites previously used to release captured pangolins, to ensure a greater chance of finding scat, however, even in an area where over 200 pangolins have been released over the years, only one released pangolin scat was located, along with one wild pangolin..

In Pu Mat, the teams found no wild pangolin scats, only potential burrows, poacher camps and wire snares.

To the North, in Na Hang protected area, again no scat was found, even though we had previously identified burrows and pangolin sign in the study area. However, they did uncover evidence of logging, snares and several poacher camps. Unfortunately surveys were limited due to the sickness of one of the dogs.

What this means:

In science even a lack of data tells us something! The results are by no means conclusive, but the low sample numbers could suggest a problem with this methodology in looking specifically for pangolin scat (perhaps that they often bury their scat), or that the population densities at the study sites have become so low that the chances for scat detection are equally low; or it may be a combination of the two factors.

Moving on…

In the search for genetic information about pangolins, and perhaps, for baseline population data too, it may be a case of ‘back to the drawing board’ to find methodologies that are effective with our scaly, noctournal friends

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.

113 pangolins rescued!

This brought up to a total of 139 pangolin currently rehab  in our center.

After a long and furious chase, Hoa Binh Police caught a car containing 550 kilograms of pangolins in tight bag. We were on the scene right after being informed about the confiscation. Five pangolins were found dead, 113 were brought back to our center at 3am.

This rescue added the total number of pangolins in our center at this moment to 139. We never had to deal with such a crowd before. As a result, four to five pangolins have to share a room.

More updates will follow.

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