Our pangolin research

We strongly believe that without proper research, conservation is considerably less effective.

We therefore scientifically document the daily movements, behaviour, patterns and needs of the pangolins we care for. To help us, we host a variety of students, from undergraduates to post-doctorates, focusing on subjects including disease, health, behaviour, ranges, diet and rehabilitation assessments on release. We’ve also formed close collaborations with Nigerian universities, international vets, student vets and government officials, whose help is invaluable.

As a member of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, Pangolins International founder, Maria Diekmann, works continuously with other pangolin specialists around the world, sharing research methodologies and data to strengthen pangolin conservation globally.

Research in the Emerald Forest

With the help of the Emerald Forest Reserve, we’re currently developing major research programmes for species survival strategies, with action points including:

  • Setting up a well-equipped veterinary clinic
  • Designing an on-site laboratory for the collection and preservation of samples
  • Biobanking all samples that can be collected ethically and without compromising an animal’s health or welfare
  • Monitoring and researching the health of the forest and its occupants by using soil sampling, non-invasive camera traps and other specialist photography, including time-lapse, aerial and ground.

Anyone interested in using the Emerald Forest centre as a research base for any environmental subject is welcome to submit a proposal, which will be reviewed by the Scientific Board. Copies of any published papers are required to be submitted to us by email within one month of publication.

WHy is research so important?

The world is only now realising that all pangolins are under severe threat, and dedicated research has never been more important because we still know so little about them.

The eight remaining species of pangolins – four each in both Asia and Africa – are some of the world's rarest and most evolutionarily-distinct animals. We know that all pangolins share several key traits, such as their unique keratin-based scales (the same material as human fingernails), their semi-nocturnal activity patterns and their specialised mouth (they have no teeth and their tongue is almost as long as their body). And that Nigeria’s tree pangolins spend most of their time in the trees, although they may sometimes dig burrows underground like their southern and east African cousins, the giant and ground pangolins.

However, we still don’t know exactly when and how tree pangolins emerge to feed, although we believe ants compose at least 98% of their diet.

We still have so much to learn about all eight species, but we do know that low population densities, uneven distribution, slow reproduction rates and extreme sensitivity to disturbance, electric fencing and habitat destruction contribute to their demise – along with active hunting for their meat and scales (which are used in traditional medicine in the same way as rhino horn). To combat these increasing threats, we are currently spearheading some of the most dedicated research into pangolins ever conducted worldwide.

Please donate now, to help us continue or invaluable research.

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