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Experts convene to save one of world’s most trafficked mammals

07 July 2017
The Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) lives in Southeast Asia, and is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Saving the Sunda pangolin – one of the world’s most trafficked mammals – from extinction will require engaging local communities in their conservation and addressing the demand for pangolin products, according to international wildlife experts gathered in Singapore this week to create the first ever conservation strategy for the species.

Pangolins are scaly insect-eating animals that live in Asia and Africa. The Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), one of eight species of pangolin, lives in Southeast Asia and is classified as Critically Endangered by The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™. A thriving illegal trade for pangolin meat and scales is behind the decline. An estimated 200,000 Sunda pangolins have been illegally traded in the last decade, according to the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group.

The Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) lives in Southeast Asia, and is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore. A range of interventions will be needed to conserve the Sunda pangolin, according to a group of more than 50 conservationists, researchers and wildlife authorities representing 16 countries gathered in Singapore for the workshop. Priorities include combatting trafficking, strengthening legal policies, and building capacity for effective enforcement.

“The sheer scale of the pangolin trade is staggering, and time is of the essence,” says Dr. Dan Challender, Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group. “The only way to stop the decline is through implementation of a clear strategy and unified effort to stop the demand, supply and trafficking.”

Stopping the poaching of pangolins will require engaging local people who live within or close to Sunda pangolin habitats, according to the group. This could involve hiring community members as rangers, or devising incentives for locals to protect pangolins. Additional research is needed to understand the drivers and motivations behind the consumption of pangolin products, and what will be successful in changing consumer behaviour away from unsustainable consumption.

The eight species of pangolin recently received the highest level of international protection under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) when they were uplisted to Appendix I, which bans international commercial trade in pangolins. Strengthening domestic legislation and policy to combat the illegal wildlife trade remains a top concern. China and Vietnam are the global centres of demand for pangolin meat and scales. The meat is consumed as a luxury dish and the scales are used in various traditional medicines.

“Ensuring the survival of a Critically Endangered species like the Sunda pangolin requires collaboration and commitment,” says Nerissa Chao of the IUCN SSC Asian Species Action Partnership. “This has been a terrific moment to bring people together from across the region.”

This workshop is the first in a series of regional and national meetings to create a global strategy for all eight pangolin species.

The Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) lives in Southeast Asia, and is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore. “There’s a real sense of urgency but also a sense of optimism,” says Sonja Luz of Wildlife Reserves Singapore. “We can change the plight of the Sunda pangolin to make it a wildlife success story.”

The workshop was organised by the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, IUCN Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP), and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and sponsored by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund.

The final report from the workshop will be released later this year and freely available from the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group website.

More information on IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group can be found at


Joey Phua, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, +65 6210 5385,

Goska Bonnaveira, IUCN Media Relations, +41 79 276 0185,  

Paul Thomson, IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group, +1 415 906 9955  



Liberia takes a major step forward in protecting its elephants

04 July 2017
Forest elephants captured via camera traps in Sapo National Park. Credit: FFI/FDA.

Fantastic news for Liberian forest elephants as the President gives her formal signature for the immediate implementation of a National Elephant Action Plan.

In a pivotal turning point for elephant conservation, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has formally signed off on a National Elephant Action Plan – devised by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and partners and funded by Stop Ivory – to help tackle the growing threats to the country’s forest elephants.

Forest elephants captured via camera traps in Sapo National Park. Credit: FFI/FDA.This is a significant achievement that will place Liberia in a strong position internationally to attract much-needed support for elephant conservation.

Forest elephants are currently classified as a rarer subspecies of African elephants, although some experts now argue that they might be a separate species. An escalation in poaching means that forest elephants are severely threatened, with numbers thought to be as low as 300 individuals (though a lack of recent systematic studies makes it difficult to estimate numbers accurately). Among other things, the National Elephant Action Plan helps to identify specific actions and interventions for which targeted funding will be sought to address this data gap. This will include a nationwide baseline assessment of forest elephants – the first for Liberia.

“Essential step” for elephant conservation

West Africa has lost more than 90% of its suitable elephant habitat over the last 35 years, as a result of logging, mining and agriculture. This loss of habitat is highly detrimental for elephants as they require vast areas to roam, so their survival depends on safeguarding sites and the corridors connecting them. Forest elephants are only found in eight African countries, and among these countries, Liberia has the largest forest cover, so Liberia’s population is extremely important.

The new National Elephant Action Plan will complement the broader African Elephant Action Plan by providing a guide for the protection and conservation of forest elephants in Liberia.

This is not the first time that Liberia has taken a leading stance on elephant conservation. In 2015, the country became the first West African countries to pledge support for the Elephant Protection Initiative – an African-led, intergovernmental initiative to protect elephants and stop the illegal ivory trade. With the new action plan in place, Liberia will now be eligible for funding under this initiative.

Forest elephants captured via camera traps in Sapo National Park. Credit: FFI/FDA.This action plan is an essential step in coordinating efforts at a national level,” said Michelle Klailova, FFI’s Liberia Programme Manager. “It will allow us to obtain a better understanding of the issues surrounding the distribution and conservation of Liberia’s elephants, identify the key threats and establish a programme of measures to ensure the survival of the species in Liberia.

“The Liberian President’s signature will ensure the ideas and objectives towards elephant conservation are not just theoretical but actually implemented through the action plan,” she added.

FFI has been supporting conservation in Liberia since 1997 and – despite setbacks such as the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak (which, aside from the terrible human toll, halted conservation activities) – has seen great progress being made. This new commitment by the Liberian President is an encouraging step in showing the government’s commitment to protecting its natural environment.

This story was written by, and published by Fauna and Flora International. The article's author is Lulu Sloane. 

To see the original story please click here. 



A first step towards sponges conservation in the Mediterranean

03 July 2017
Madrepore colonies and sponges in a Mediterranean seabed. Photo: © Zagor/ Dreamstime

More than 300 experts attended the 10th World Sponge Conference held in the National University of Ireland, Galway from June 25th-30th to discuss the main areas in which sponge biology is developing at present, as well as traditional research categories.  

This Conference hosted every 3 to 4 years, brought together international scientists from all over the globe to present their latest research findings and to network with colleagues. Through this influential event and given the importance of sponges for the conservation of Mediterranean biodiversity, the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation held a side event directed to scientists interested to participate in the IUCN Red List assessment of Mediterranean Porifera in order to form a group of experts that will set up the basis and define the scope of this future assessment.

Sponges are one of the major components of littoral ecosystems and play an important role structuring habitats in deep waters. Additionally, the morphology and structure of many species within this taxonomic group allows the creation of microhabitats that host a rich and diverse community of marine fauna and flora. About 8000 species are currently described worldwide and approximately 700 occur in the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean sponge fauna is characterised by high level of endemism, rare or restricted distributed species, and species that have suffered important regressions mostly due to epidemic diseases and overharvesting. Under these circumstances, it is key to understand their present status and prioritise the species in need to be included inadequate management plans for their conservation.

About the Mediterranean Red List Initiative: With the aim to provide information about the conservation status of the Mediterranean biodiversity, the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation in collaboration with hundreds of experts have assessed the risk of extinction of more than 4000 species of 19 taxonomic groups from freshwater, marine and terrestrial environments in the last 10 years.

For more information: Maria del Mar Otero and Catherine Numa



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