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Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation Like Never Before

17 February 2018
A Sundra pangolin rolled into a ball. Photo: Nguyen Van Thai/SVW

In celebration of World Pangolin Day, Dan Challender, IUCN Programme Officer for Sustainable Use and Trade of Wildlife and Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Pangolin Specialist Group discusses pangolin conservation and the achievements in conservation of this species over the past year. 

Saturday 17th February 2018 is World Pangolin Day and the 6th birthday of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, also known as the Pangolin SG. World Pangolin Day provides a perfect opportunity to celebrate pangolins for the fascinating and intriguing creatures that they are, and to reflect on some of our key accomplishments these past six years.

Let us first celebrate pangolins! I became captivated by pangolins because they are the most unique and enchanting animals I could ever wish to see. Not only do they look prehistoric and like they belong in the Jurassic period (they have been likened to dinosaurs!) but the global conservation community knows very little about them and many mysteries about pangolins remain. For instance, we are still learning how long they live in the wild, and we’ve only just discovered through recent research in the Central African Republic that the black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla), thought to be fully nocturnal, is actually active diurnally (in the daytime). With so much still to learn about the animals, they epitomise the wonder of the natural world, and pangolin researchers today are entitled to feel like Darwin or Wallace as they seek to reveal so much about them that remains unknown.

A Sundra pangolin is reintroduced with a transmitter for post release monitoring. Photo: Nguyen Van Thai/SVWSuch knowledge is essential to informing conservation actions for pangolins – and they really need it! Based on best available knowledge, all pangolins are considered threatened with extinction on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, where they are categorised as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Their imperilled status is due to overexploitation from both poaching for consumption of the animals and their body parts (e.g., scales) locally and from trafficking of pangolins and their scales internationally, mainly to satisfy the unyielding demand of China and Vietnam’s luxury meat and traditional medicine markets. There pangolin meat is eaten as a luxury dish in high end urban restaurants and scales are used to treat a range of ailments from psoriasis to cancer. While pangolin trafficking has historically been confined to Asia, the most worrying trend in the last decade has been the emergence of intercontinental trafficking in African pangolin scales to Asia, which now takes place at a huge volume, to the tune of tens of tonnes (translating to tens of thousands of pangolins) per year, and now affects all eight pangolin species.

But there is cause for hope. There is an ever-strengthening conservation response to the trafficking crisis and the Pangolin SG has made important progress in our first six years. We now have over 100 members from 35 countries, and as the profile of pangolins grows we are responding to increasing interest from civil society, governments and NGOs. We have taken the best available knowledge and applied it to assessing the conservation status and extinction risk for pangolins on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Numerous large field conservation projects have launched which focus on pangolins, including Fondation Segré Pangolin Conservation Initiative I and II, among others. In 2013 the Pangolin SG gathered experts from across the globe to develop the first ever global conservation action plan for pangolins to guide conservation investment, ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation’, and soon after contributed expertise to the First Pangolin Range States Meeting, co-hosted by the governments of Vietnam and the United States in 2015. Importantly, we continue to provide scientific and technical expertise to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The CITES Parties decided in 2016 with nearly universal agreement at their 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to afford pangolins the highest level of international protection by up-listing them to Appendix I of the Convention. This means that international trade in pangolins for primarily commercial purposes is now prohibited and the Pangolin SG is developing tools to help support its implementation.

Pangolin conservervation areas could benefit from a Fair Finance GLS Token investment. Photo: E&C Jacquet. In the coming years our important work will continue. We are once again assessing the status of the eight pangolin species for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, and will continue to do so periodically in order to make sure the best and most current information possible is available to governments and stakeholders. As the profile of pangolins has grown dramatically in recent years and with it an increase in support for pangolin conservation, the need for detailed regional and national conservation strategies is paramount. Following IUCN’s best practice guidance on species conservation planning, the Pangolin SG will continue our work with partners to develop conservation strategies for the eight pangolin species and help ensure they are implemented. We met with experts and range state government representatives in 2017 to develop a regional strategy for the Sunda pangolin, and are supporting the development of national strategies for pangolins in Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines, and that’s just the beginning.

You can be a part of our work to celebrate and conserve pangolins on World Pangolin Day and every day. Whether you are lucky enough to see a pangolin anytime soon, or are celebrating the species by building a snow pangolin, playing pangolin party games or having a bake sale to raise conservation funds, take time to celebrate these fascinating animals with us, and be sure to join us on social media (@PangolinSG) throughout the year.

Dan Challender, Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group



New research reveals a global rise in emerging invasive alien species

05 February 2018
Lupine. Photo: Essl Franz.

IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) has contributed to research published today in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, which highlights the urgent need for governments to develop measures to control the spread of emerging alien species.

Yellow Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). Photo: Essl FranzUp to 16% of all animal and plant species have the potential to become invasive alien species (IAS), according to the new report. “These results suggest that there remains a high proportion of emerging alien species we have yet to encounter, with future impacts that are difficult to predict,” says Dr Hanno Seebens of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Lead author of the report.

For the study, researchers investigated the emergence of alien species worldwide over time by analysing a number of datasets including the IUCN Global Invasive Species Database (GISD) and the IUCN co-developed Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS). These datasets provided approximately 46,000 first recorded sightings of established alien species, spanning the past five centuries – the period during which humans increasingly developed passages for species to travel across the globe.

“Between 2000 and 2005, one in four alien species introductions had never been recorded as alien before. These emerging alien species pose a significant challenge to biosecurity measures as it is difficult to predict how they will arrive, and where from,” comments Dr Seebens. “Current biosecurity approaches often rely on knowledge of already known invasive alien species, but this study highlights that early detection and eradication measures will be more important than ever before.” 

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca). Photo: Tim Blackburn.Over the past two centuries, humans have been responsible for the introduction of thousands of plant, animal and fungi species to regions outside of their native range. Traditionally, species have been introduced to new areas through the transport of commodities, however the study found that new trade networks and environmental change are contributing to the increasing number of introductions of alien species.

Some of these introduced species have become invasive, and have had significant impacts on human health, economies and ecosystems. The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), introduced to western Europe in 2004, preys on other species of insect, particularly honey bees. This has led to major losses in honey bee colonies, decreasing beekeeping production and therefore impacting local economies. The species is also a threat to public health and incidences of anaphylactic shock due to people being stung have been reported. The full impact of the species invasion is as yet unknown.

“Ignoring emerging alien species may lead to direct socio-economic and environmental consequences. The IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group are working with scientists and policy makers across the globe in an attempt to increase the knowledge base on alien species, and build capacity in order to prevent their introductions and manage their impacts.” Piero Genovesi, co-author of the paper and Chair of IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Photo: Tim Blackburn. The findings of this study support the Honolulu Challenge, a global initiative born at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which calls for urgent and bold action on invasive alien species in order to protect biodiversity and human well-being from their current and future impacts. 

In addition the GISD and GRIIS databases, IUCN supports global efforts to identify and prioritise IAS through the recently developed Environmental Impact Classification of Alien Taxa (EICAT). 



IUCN contributes to a new paper which aims to help combat Invasive Alien Species

23 January 2018
Emerald ash borer copyright USGSBIML Flickr CC pd

The IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group has made a major contribution to a paper published today in the journal Scientific Data, which provides a detailed description of the data behind The Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS).

Developed by the IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group, in conjunction with The Global Invasive Alien Species Information Partnership, GRIIS is the first open-access, evidence-based database to tackle international concerns about invasive alien species. 

The impact of invasive alien species is far-reaching and can lead to biodiversity loss and extinction, change in the composition of ecosystems and can affect human well-being and economies. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ indicates that invasive species are the most common threat associated with extinctions of amphibians, reptiles and mammals, especially on islands, and the increasing movement of people and goods around the world is leading to a rise in alien species introductions. The impacts of invasive alien species are undermining global efforts on sustainable development, affecting food security, livelihoods, human health and economies. 

Water hyacinth Kisumu docks Copyright Richard Portsmouth Flickr CC BY ND 2.0The socio-economic and environmental impacts of invasive species can be exemplified in the case of the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). The species, which is native to South America, is spreading across Africa, Asia, Oceania and North America, limiting oxygen and sunlight in rivers. The infestations have impacted fish levels, blocked navigation routes, increased disease and affected access to water by reducing hydropower capacity. It is important to effectively monitor and control species movement to reduce these types of scenarios for the future.

The GRIIS database uses a series of country-specific checklists to help governments highlight problem invasive species and offers a basis for countries to prepare their own national strategies to combat invasive species. “GRIIS provides credible, authoritative and peer-reviewed information on introduced species,” said Dr. Piero Genovesi Chair of the IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group, and co-author of the paper. “By fully understanding the issue, governments can use the checklists to inform effective decision making and prioritise problem species to tackle first.”
Asian hornet Vespa velutina copyright Danel Solabarrieta Flickr CC by sa The database will help countries meet globally agreed targets on biodiversity (Aichi Target 9) and sustainable development (SDG Target 15.8), which specifically focus on reducing the impacts from invasive alien species. “GRIIS is a major step forward in the delivery of information needed to effectively deal with the problem of biological invasions,” states senior author Professor McGeoch. “It was designed to facilitate transparent, repeatable information on invasions and this new paper provides detailed information about the GRIIS platform and its development.” The paper includes 23 exemplar checklists and over 11,000 records are included on introduced and invasive species for 20 countries.

In the United Arab Emirates, the implementation of GRIIS led to the identification of 258 established alien species – only 146 of these species had been previously identified. The data was discussed in a dedicated workshop and verified by national experts, leading to the UAE authorities prioritising of 57 alien species for intervention. “It is a major breakthrough to have these 20 national checklists published as a data paper,” said co-author Dr Dmitry Schigel. “National checklists allow us to better understand invasive alien species and make predictions for species movement in the future. We hope that the methods described in this paper will make it easier for other GRIIS countries to develop their national checklists.” 

Orange pore fungus IAS Favolaschia calocera copyright Sid Mosdell Flick CC byThe IUCN Global Invasive Species Database (GISD). provides additional information on over 850 invasive alien species, specifying their impacts, pathways of introduction, and management measures. This information can build on the knowledge from the GRIIS database, helping countries develop measures that prevent the introduction of invasive alien species and manage any impacts from already introduced species.‚Äč

To view the final report online, please click here

For more information, please contact:
Elaine Paterson, Media and Communications Officer: or +44 (0)1223 331128



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