New research recently suggested that with the proper conservation measures, the Philippine pangolin still has a shot at bouncing back. Essentially, knowledge of this only pangolin species in the country is limited. More so, sightings of the said animal are even more infrequent.
In a study which the Global Ecology and Conservation journal published, researchers who were then conducting an extensive survey found that Philippine pangolins or Manis culonensis have been sighted in 17 municipalities located in Palawan, an island province and the only place in the planet where this species occurs.
According to the lead author, Zoological Society of London's Lucy Archer, the sightings are promising for the Philippine pangolin, suggesting that it is not too late to establish conservation initiatives throughout the range of the species.
The Gateway Guide reported, there's not a lot of information known about the Philippine Pangolin and that even as the IUCN considers the species to be critically endangered, there's no recognized approximation for its baseline population.
The IUCN noted, this scientific study suggests the species was never common. More so, it also said, interviews with Indigenous communities conducted in 2018 suggest, it has been a sharp drop since the 1980s. Nevertheless, the newly published survey provides a reason to be optimistic.
Similar wide-ranging surveys analyzing knowledge of pangolins of the locals done in West Africa for Smutsia Gigantea or giant pangolin, and Manis pentadactyla or Chinese pangolin in China and Vietnam, present that locals there strongly believe that their pangolin species are extinct. Meaning, sightings are infrequent or no longer existing.
This is not the same case with the Philippine pangolins. Locals here still see them, although very rarely, and the number of locations where they exist is high.
Archer said, compared to similar research on pangolin species elsewhere, these findings suggest populations of Philippine pangolin may not have reached the critical levels yet as presented by Vietnam and China's Chinese pangolins or by Benin's giant pangolins. This then gives hope for the said species, said the lead author.
This species was, until 1998, believed to be an independent population of the Manis javanica or Sunda pangolin, which occurs throughout Southeast Asia but not in the Philippines.
Its acknowledgment as its own species occurred along with a local poaching boom. A high demand for pangolin scales in Vietnam and China, combined with strengthened enforcement on identified Sunda pangolin trafficking routes, saw traffickers diverting their attention to the Philippine pangolin.
Furthermore, local conservationists also associate a rise in Chines projects in the Philippines to growing demand for pangolin meats in food chains in Manila that cater to the influx of Chinese tourists and workers.
While researchers race against time to save the local population of pangolins, studies are limited by the strange and mysterious habits of the pangolins.
These animals, Archer said, are nocturnal, private, non-vocal, and semi-arboreal. While the said characteristics have not been sufficient to shield them from poachers, they make it quite hard to study the species in the wild.
Such mysterious behaviors lead to low detection possibilities which means, the chances of spotting one, even if it is nearby, is very slight.