Species in peril: assessing the status of the trade in pangolins in Nepal

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Prayash Ghimire
Nirjala Raut
Pragya Khanal
Suman Acharya
Suraj Upadhaya


Pangolins are among the most widely traded taxa in the southeastern Asian illegal wildlife trade because of which they are at great risk of extinction.  Yet, little is known of their trade status in Nepal.  This research was carried out to unfold the status of pangolin trade in Sankhuwasava District of Nepal.  We used mixed methods such as semi-structured questionnaire (n=75) and, focus group discussion (n=4) and key Informant Interview, (n=30) to assess the trade status.  Seizure data (2009–2017) were gathered from law enforcement agencies to predict major trade routes.  The major threat perceived was hunting especially by unemployed local youth and children.  The majority of hunters were opportunistic.  Sankhuwasava District has become both source and transit for the illegal pangolin trade rather than for local use.  The involvement of non-timber forest product traders was high in the illegal trade business, however, there seems a rapid decline in the seizure of pangolin in the last two years, mainly because of the deployment of the Nepal army in the Makalu Barun National Park, which had long served as a major route to China.  Thus, we recommend continuation of strong border security.  Our study calls for capacity building of enforcement agencies for detailed investigation of seizure data.  For sustainable conservation of pangolin and its habitat we recommend sustained conservation awareness programs in addition to alternative livelihood opportunity.  Furthermore, formation of community based anti-poaching units followed by motivation, anti-poaching trainings, security assurance, and incentives for worthy conservation outcomes in pangolin-rich communities might aid in conservation.

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