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  • Writer's pictureSingapore Pangolin Working Group

Give pangolins a brake!

Updated: Apr 18

Article by Frances Loke Wei, Chair of Education & Communications Subgroup, Singapore Pangolin Working Group

February 2024

Happy World Pangolin Day! Every year, nature lovers around the world celebrate World Pangolin Day on the third Saturday of February to raise awareness about the power and plight of pangolins globally. In fact, World Pangolin Day is among the top-performing wildlife awareness days, generating lots of online buzz. And perhaps it should – all species of pangolins (found only in Africa and Asia) are threatened with extinction due to a seemingly insatiable demand for their scales and meat, destruction of their forest habitats, and urban development.

A Sunda pangolin curled into a ball in self-defence. (Photo by Nick Baker)

In Singapore, some strides have been made in the right direction to investigate the illegal wildlife trade of pangolins globally through advancements in wildlife forensics enabling the authorities to trace the origins of illegal shipments of pangolin scales coming through Singapore’s ports. At the same time, pangolins are increasingly in the public eye through the news, sightings across Singapore’s parks and urban spaces posted on social media, and even in local author Maureen Yeo’s comic books for children, Classroom Critters: Mammals Get Schooled!

Yet, while the Critically Endangered Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica) that call Singapore their home are often believed to be at minimal risk of global threats of poaching for human consumption, other threats persist for these scaly mammals. Sting operations as recent as 2023 and 2022 have thwarted recent attempts to poach and sell pangolins as exotic pets in Singapore, through the messaging platform, Telegram. On top of that, pangolins here face another challenging threat: vehicles.

Why did the pangolin cross the road?

Many animals roam to find new territories for feeding, breeding, and shelter. However, with Singapore’s impressive network of roads connecting the island from point-to-point in almost every direction, another inescapable threat for pangolins—and many other species of wildlife here—is vehicles.

A pangolin mum and pup crossing the road. (Photo by Francis Poh)

Imagine traversing across the forest via the canopy or on the ground, over barricades, fences, and other urban infrastructure, only to find yourself face-to-face with speeding vehicles and multiple lanes of traffic. The journey across to the other side can be treacherous and result in injury or death if a vehicle collides with an animal. In the last few years of monitoring and improving ways of collecting data, we have observed a rise in reported pangolin roadkills on major as well as minor roads since 2021. It is a shame that this fate should await any animal, perhaps especially so for one that is so rare and not well understood by people.

What can you do?

Go slow for pango

Compared to the speed of the average moving vehicle in Singapore, pangolins are slow pokes on our roads. Drive slowly and safely when near nature areas, and be on the lookout for wildlife on the roads, even in urban areas. Slow down and stop if necessary to give them space to cross safely. In situations where the pangolin may require rescuing, please call either the 24hr NParks Animal Response Centre at 1800 476 1600 or the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) 24hr Wildlife Rescue Hotline at 9783 7782.

Record your pangolin sighting

If you are fortunate to spot a pangolin that looks to be in good shape and health, please observe from a safe and respectful distance and do not approach. It would be great to take photos and videos of the pangolin and log your sighting with the Singapore Pangolin Working Group through our Record A Pangolin page. This data is valuable as it contributes to our knowledge of these elusive animals in Singapore, and will be kept strictly confidential. If you share your sightings publicly on social media, please do not disclose the location of your pangolin sighting to avoid any potential unintended consequences for the pangolin and observer.

Stop the demand for pangolins

Do not purchase any pangolin meat, scales, and products – even if they are believed to be medicinal. Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to poach and/or sell pangolins and their parts. If you suspect or come across activities that involve the sale of pangolins, pangolin meat or scales, please make a report to the NParks Animal Response Centre at 1800 476 1600 immediately. 

Learn and spread the word!

Pangolin issues are also forest issues. Take time to visit Singapore’s nature parks and reserves to learn about these important habitats for forest wildlife. Check out the SPWG’s list of resources (including for young ones!) online to learn more about the Sunda pangolin in Singapore and what else is being done to protect it. Be an advocate for nature and wildlife by sharing your knowledge with friends and family so they can appreciate nature in Singapore – and the other Singaporeans that call it home.

The theme for this year’s World Pangolin Day is “Unity for Pangolin Conservation”, underlining the importance of collaboration in efforts to protect pangolins globally.  Celebrate World Pangolin Day by following the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group (@pangolinsg) on social media or taking part in activities in nature listed on the SPWG website!

Special thanks to Paige Lee for the inspiration for the title of this article!

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