Madhya Pradesh Successfully Radio Tags the Indian Pangolin

A serious win for conservationists, the MP forest department broke the news on the eve of World Pangolin Day
A baby Indian pangolin
A baby Indian pangolin

Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world. Their keratin scales and flesh are prized in traditional Chinese medicine and in Vietnam, leading to rampant poaching. Deforested habitats are another threat. Out of eight extant species of pangolins around the globe, two are found in India, namely the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla). Both are endangered species on the IUCN Red List, with research needed on their ecology, distribution and population trends to help find a solution.

To get the ball rolling for conservation and protective legislation, the Madhya Pradesh forest department has unveiled a first&mdashradio-tagging the elusive animal. The practice is common for tracking larger mammals in sanctuaries and migration zones, but has never been attempted on these two species in the subcontinent. The department, partnering with non-profit Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), announced on February 14 that they had successfully radio-tagged two Indian pangolins and rehabilitated them in the wild. The exercise was carried out at the Satpura Tiger Reserve the biotelemetry ought to help with a higher success rate in tracking and understanding the animal.

Both species of pangolins in India are protected under Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. Despite this provision, they are smuggled and traded both within the country and abroad. The announcement came on the heels of World Pangolin Day, celebrated every year on February 15. The designated day is an international effort to boost awareness about pangolins and the declining numbers in their genus (Manis), make sure people know that they're different from anteaters, and gather public and private stakeholders to build conservation plans. Children might identify the Pokemon Sandshrew and Sandslash as loosely resembling the pangolin, but there's not enough common knowledge in the public sphere about their habits and habitats. The radio-tagging, if viable in the long term, hopes to change this scenario.

Animal tracking has been used since the 1800s to formulate wildlife action plans. Starting with bird banding in the USA, we've now moved onto genetic markers, pop-up satellite tags and nanotechnology.

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