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The extinction clock ticks for the little-known Philippine pangolin

22 / 04 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

PALAWAN, Philippines — In the wilderness of the Philippines’ southwestern island province of Palawan, dubbed the country’s last biodiversity frontier, lives a scaly mammal found nowhere else on Earth: the Palawan or Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis). But along with seven other pangolin species from Asia and Africa, it constitutes the world’s most heavily poached and trafficked mammal. With the Palawan pangolin’s population decimated by poaching and its habitat lost to urban creep, scientists and conservationists are in a race against time to save and document everything about this forest dweller. All pangolins are listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). That means international trade of wild-caught specimens is strictly prohibited, although that hasn’t stopped huge numbers of the animals from being trafficked — primarily to China, where their scales are in demand for use in traditional medicine. Domestically, the Palawan pangolin is classified as critically endangered under the Philippines’ Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, which bans the collection of any form of wildlife in the province without a permit. The law prescribes strong penalties for any violations involving species listed as endangered. Illegal trade in the Palawan pangolin carries a prison sentence of up to six years and fines of up to $12,192. “We are in a race to save the pangolins,” says Sabine Schoppe, program director of the Palawan Pangolin Conservation Project run by the Katala Foundation, Inc., a conservation nonprofit. She says there’s…

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