More Protection for the Pangolin
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The US Fish and Wildlife Service may be adding seven pangolin species to its Endangered Species Act list and Vietnam is beginning to crack down on illegal reselling of the pangolins and reintroducing them back into their habitat.
In July 2015, conservation groups petitioned to list the remaining pangolin species under the Endangered Species Act because of their endangered or threatened status from being illegally traded. The eighth, the Temnick’s ground pangolin, is already protected. And on March 15, the agency has opened the case to the public to weigh in on the proposal for the next 60 days.
If the pangolin species gained protection, it will become illegal for people to import the animal or their parts into the United States with the exception of promoting conservation.
Although the biggest demand comes from China, Thailand, and Vietnam, the United States is also a significant in the black market for pangolin. For example, a 2015 report by the Humane Society International revealed U.S. based companies selling pangolin products online. In between the years 2005 and 2014, authorities confiscated approximately 30,000 imports of pangolin products to the United States. This number may account for only 10% of what is actually being smuggled across borders as the number of live pangolins or their parts entering is a lot more than what trade statistics can show.
Along with ending the black market trade in America, the activists also think that listing all pangolin species under the Act would send a strong signal to other countries to also clamp down on the pangolin trade.
In addition to what the United States is doing, Vietnam has been making an effort to stop officials from reselling seized pangolins back into the trade. A law came into effect in January 2014 reclassifying the pangolin as endangered which prohibits the practice of reselling.
Today, the confiscated pangolins end up at the Carnivore & Pangolin Conservation Program’s rescue center, managed by Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, in Cuc Phuong National Park. Typically, the pangolins arrive traumatized and in poor health as they don’t cope well in captivity. Many arrive with injuries from snare traps, abusive handling, or being wrenched from a tree during capture.
Thai Van Nguyen, the founder and executive director of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife said “They’ve endured weeks or sometimes months of hard travel and force-feeding of cornmeal to make them gain weight, which is disastrous for their health”.
Pangolins are sold by weight and in addition to force-feeding of cornmeal, poachers would inject water under the animals’ skins or force-feed them stones or limestone slurry to increase their profits.
After a month or so for the pangolins are recovered, they are returned to the wild and monitored. During the past eight months, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife has rehabilitated and released 75 pangolins.
Conservation Efforts for the Amargosa Vole
The Amargosa vole is a desert subspecies of the California vole that inhabits only in the wetlands in central Mojave Desert, just east of Death Valley National Park. With a range of one square kilometer (247 acres), it is considered to be one of the most narrowly distributed subspecies of mammals known. This makes the Amargosa vole extremely susceptible to extinction due to habitat alterations from water diversion, groundwater withdrawals, and invasive species like the salt cedar.
Once thought to be extinct in the early 1900’s, the vole was rediscovered by biologist Vernon Bleich in the late 1970s. Immediately, it was listed as a California State Endangered species in 1980 and a recovery plan began.
Little is known about the Amargosa vole about its basic life history, habitat requirement, and distribution. Without such essential information, effective management and recovery for the species is unlikely. In the early 2000s, (CDFW) began comprehensive surveys and conducted an intensive mark and recapture trapping effort to acquire an updated knowledge of the range, distribution, and relative abundance of this species. During this effort, a high prevalence of deformities associated on the ears and genitalia was documented. Drs. Deana Clifford with Janet Foley and Leslie Woods at UC Davis discovered that the voles were infested by a tiny parasitic mite that is associated with necrotic skin disease. A genetic research in 2002 revealed that the species has low genetic diversity suggesting that the population could have difficulty adapting to new and existing pressures.
In 2014, the rangewide population was fewer than 100 individuals. To prevent extinction, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UC Davis, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife partnered together to capture 20 voles to begin a captive breeding colony.
The summer of the following year, 12 captive-bred Amargosa voles were released near Tecopa Hot Springs, California. Since then, UC Davis researchers have monitored the released voles to study survival, reproduction, and predation.
The interagency recovery group has also worked on restoring the degraded vole habitat near Tecopa Hot Springs, working with private landowners to establish additional habitats. In Shoshone California, one habitat restoration project meant replanting native bulrush in a spring-fed area.
Management activities to study and protect the Amargosa vole would benefit the entire Amargosa ecosystem and the unique species that are also dependent on the wetland vegetation. These include a variety of riparian songbirds, at least eight subspecies of pupfish and speckled dace, endemic spring snails, native amphibians such as the Amargosa toad, and endemic beetles. The marshes are also a stop-over for many migratory bird species. Some rely on the Amargosa vole as a major food source. Thus, protecting the Amargosa vole would be protecting the ecosystem.