Apr 15 2010

Pangolins: The Informidable Armour

A Sunda pangolin mother carrying a baby pangolin on its tail, spotted along Madai Lake Road.

A Sunda pangolin mother carrying a baby pangolin on its tail, spotted along Madai Lake Road. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rusli)

The picture above was taken by a friend of mine along Madai Lake Road at around 1am, 10/4/2010.

You might think that this is a rare sight only to us layman, however, it is certainly also something intriguing to those wildlife biologists out there. This is because the Sunda Pangolins (Manis javanica) have been listed as “critically endangered” in The Singapore Red Data Book (2008). Except for the Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus), there is no natural predator of the pangolins, however their species is still unable to flourish due to habitat loss, poaching and road kills.

Rapid urbanisation in Singapore has caused the pangolins to lose their natural habitats: forests, scrublands and plantations. The few surviving Sunda Pangolins in Singapore has been sighted at Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Bukit Batok forested areas and even in residential areas!

The pangolin that Mark spotted was wandering around the vicinity, probably searching for food. According to Mark, the mother pangolin was fearlessly crossing the road and even went up to sniff at him a couple of times. Unfortunately, the Sunda pangolins wandering and inquisitive nature make them an even easier target for poachers and unknowing drivers.

Since pangolins only give birth to one or two offsprings a year (Chew, 2010), they are killed at a rate much faster than they can reproduce. Seeing this Sunda pangolin and its baby along Mandai Lake Road is indeed a comforting sight.

With the current trade ban and wildlife conservation efforts Singapore are undertaking, I believe that the Sunda pangolins will soon be taken off the endangered list in The Singapore Red Data Book along with many other animals. Who knows, in the near future, you might just see this elusive animal foraging for food in your garden lawn!

References:

Davison, G. W. H., Ng, P. K. L., & Ho, H. C. (Eds.). (2008). The Singapore red data book: Threatened plants & animals of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore).

“Sunda Pangolins,” by Valerie Chew. National Library Board Singapore, 12 February 2009. URL: http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_1455_2009-02-23.html  (accessed on 13 April 2010).

“Save Our Pangolins!” by Ria Tan. WildSingapore, 5 March 2010. URL: http://iyb2010singapore.blogspot.com/2010/03/save-our-pangolins.html (accessed on 13 April 2010).

“Sunda Pangolins,” by Nick Baker. Ecology Asia, 2010. URL: http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/mammals/sunda-pangolin.htm (accessed on 13 April 2010).

Second source: http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-YYHS200404013.htm

A scientific journal about the threatened status of another species of pangolins, Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) in China.  The key factors contributing to their endangerment are also loss of habitats, poaching, slow reproductive rate and poor defense due to their slow movement just like the Sunda Pangolins in Singapore. However there were additional factors brought up, such as taxonomic uniqueness (monotypic order, family and genus), and food specialization and stenophagy (only eating several species of ants and termites). Each of the factors was given a score on the basis of the potential to cause this species risk in survival, to come up with the overall threatening index of each factor.

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