A new facility, the Pangolin Rehabilitation Center (PRC) opened today to provide specialist care to the kingdom’s endangered pangolins. The facility was established to rehabilitate injured pangolins rescued from hunters throughout Cambodia – an increasing and serious threat to the survival of this magnificent and little known species.
Opened with a Buddhist blessing and ceremony, the PRC was created through a joint initiative between Conservation International (CI) and the Forestry Administration, (within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Royal Government of Cambodia) (FA) to bolster conservation efforts for this species.
The PRC is located at the Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) in Takeo Province and staffed by a well-trained and dedicated team who care for the pangolins until they are ready for release back into the wild. The center also aims to raise awareness of the plight of the pangolin and to do so have been fitted with information signs about the species, the wildlife trade and how the public can help. There are already six pangolins under its care, which are all victims of the wildlife trade and are receiving treatment for a range of injuries. These animals were rescued by FA rangers working in the Cardamom Mountains with support from local communities.
Pangolin © James Eaton – Birdtour Asia, from the surfbirds galleries.
Annette Olsson, Scientific Technical Advisor of CI’s Greater Mekong program said, ‘The launch of this facility today gives rescued pangolins hope. Pangolins are often transported in very cruel ways by traffickers to avoid detection by authorities. Sometimes they are kept for days in plastic bags, without food or water, hidden in small spaces. It’s common for the animals to die in transit, or after rescue, due to these terrible practices.’
In Cambodia trafficked pangolins are typically kept alive as they fetch the best price on the market live. But as they are hunted using snares and hunting dogs, many confiscated pangolins have severe injuries that require professional medical treatment before they can be released back to the wild.
Mr. NheK Ratanapich, Director of PTWRC said, ‘The Cambodian government cares deeply for the kingdom’s wildlife and have partnered with CI to create this facility to help to conserve this important species so that they remain in our forests now and forever as a special part of our unique biodiversity. We wish that pangolins didn’t need a home like this and that they could stay in the wild, healthy and free to roam, but with the increasing demands of the wildlife trade, the PRC is a life saver.’
The PRC represents one part of the initiative to conserve pangolins in Cambodia. The FA also employs rangers to carry out forest patrols and enforce forestry law in areas known to be inhabited by pangolins. FA, in collaboration with CI, also has had a community engagement program in place for over a decade with various communities who live near the pangolin’s habitat. We are working to
provide sustainable, alternative livelihoods in return for the communities’ assistance in forest and species protection.
Pangolins, or “scaly ant-eaters,” are covered with protective, overlapping scales, and can quickly roll up into a tight ball when threatened. They are nocturnal and sleep in hollow trees or burrows emerging at night to forage for ants and termites, using their extraordinarily long and sticky tongue.
Half of the world’s species of pangolins are found in Asia where they have been hunted heavily to very low numbers. The Sunda pangolin, Manis javanica, is the only species found in Cambodia and is now very rare due to hunting pressures to supply the international illegal market. ‘The greatest threat to the survival of Asian pangolins in the wild is illegal hunting for meat and scales used for luxury food, tonics and traditional medicines. Hundreds and thousands of pangolins are hunted throughout the region. The price for
live pangolin is high, often more than $100 USD, and is often an irresistible incentive for poor hunters and farmers in spite of the international and national ban on hunting of this species.’ Said Mr. Ratanapich.
The Sunda pangolin is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and in CITES Appendix II, with a ‘zero’ trade quota, which bans all commercial trade in specimens removed from the wild. In Cambodia, the species is currently protected as a ‘Rare’ species under the Forestry Law, 2002 (MAFF Prakas 20 on Classification and List of Wildlife Species from 2007).
The PRC is the second such official and formally recognized pangolin rehabilitation facility in Cambodia. The other is the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) in Siem Reap Province which has been in place for a several years, which cares for injured pangolins from the northern part of Cambodia.