Wed 05 Aug 2015: 2.00pm @ NUS DBS CR2 – Helen Nash on the “Ecology, genetics and conservation of pangolins”

Qualifying Examination
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

“Ecology, genetics and conservation of pangolins”
Helen Nash
Graduate Student, NUS Biological Sciences

Wed 05 Aug 2015: 2.00pm
@ Conference Room-II (S1 Level 3, mezzanine)

Supervisor: Assoc Prof Evans, Theodore Alfred

Abstract:

Mammal species in East and SE Asia are at the highest risk of extinction for mammals anywhere in the world. Of this select group, the ant and termite eating scaly pangolins (Family Pholidota) are particularly threatened. Pangolin populations are in severe decline in part due to habitat loss and deterioration; however, a greater threat is increasing hunting. Pangolins are hunted for the illegal international trade of pangolin skins and scales for traditional medicine, and their meat constitutes a high-status delicacy in many regions. While pangolins are protected by international and local laws, these have been poorly enforced and are thus largely ineffective for conservation. Sadly, pangolins are now the most heavily trafficked animal in illegal wildlife trade globally.

Illegal wildlife trade networks are poorly understood, and the origin of seized pangolins and pangolin products is difficult to determine due to the large range sizes of most pangolin species. Conservation action and management plans are urgently required for all pangolin species. Unfortunately, little is known about their basic biology, ecology and threats, which is essential to formulate such plans.

My doctoral research project aims to collect data necessary to strengthen the evidence-base for informing robust conservation action and management plans for Asian pangolins. Specifically, I aim to (1) investigate status and threats of Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) in Hainan, South China, using local ecological knowledge (2) investigate genetic population structure of Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), and compare DNA of accurately georeferenced pangolin specimens with samples seized from illegal wildlife trade of unknown origin, in order to test and enhance forensic genetic techniques for pangolins, (3) investigate dispersal movement, home range and habitat selection of Sunda pangolin in Singapore, and (4) work with varied local and international stakeholders, such as the Singapore Pangolin Working Group, to reflectively evaluate conservation projects for Sunda pangolin.

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