Developing a conservation evidence-base for the Critically Endangered Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) to inform conservation action in Palawan, Philippines.

Lucy Archer

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Pangolins are currently thought to be the most heavily trafficked wild mammals in the illegal wildlife trade. All eight extant species are threatened with extinction due to past, present, and predicted population declines driven by the growing demand for pangolin parts and products. Although research has been increasing in recent years, limited data exists to inform effective conservation action.
The Critically Endangered Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) is endemic to Palawan Province in the Philippines and is arguably the least known of all Asian pangolin species, with little research conducted to date. Population declines are predicted but there is little knowledge on the local or international threats placed upon this species, the species’ status across its range, or how best to monitor and conserve the species moving forwards. This thesis builds an evidence base for the Philippine pangolin, using local knowledge and insights to inform conservation action at local, regional, and national scales, as well as contributing to the priorities outlined in the species’ IUCN conservation strategy.
Research was carried out using a range of methods and diverse data types to consolidate and review the available data for the species (chapter three), assess the species’ current status and threats (chapters four and five), and provide a case study of how co-developed survey methods for the species can be used to provide practical data for long term monitoring (chapter six). A range of social science and ecological methods were used to collect empirical data, using standardised household surveys, the bean count method, key informant interviews, focus groups, community mapping and camera trapping.
Findings suggest that pangolins still occur across the majority of the province but were perceived by local people to be rare, with declines widely reported alongside few recent sightings. Local use of the species was reported across the species’ range (chapters four and five) and data from pangolin hunters, trade logisticians and buyers indicate that the species may have contributed to the international pangolin trade at levels considerably higher than seizure records illustrate (chapter five). Household survey results differed across the province, suggesting there may be regional differences in status and threats across the species’ range. These data were combined with social, political, and logistical considerations to guide where to establish a new Local Pangolin Conservation Area (LPCA) as part of the Zoological Society of London’s Philippine pangolin project. The proposed LPCA was then used as a case study for chapter six that tested the co-development of fine scale monitoring for the species using
camera trapping surveys informed by local ecological knowledge. This was successful in determining pangolin presence and breeding in the area and generated useful insights into the species ecology. Results also suggest that the probability of detecting pangolins is higher under certain conditions, providing the potential to improve detection rates through targeted camera trapping surveys.
The methods used provide a practical and rapid way to generate species-specific data whilst gaining an improved understanding of the local context, perspectives and knowledge that can be used to guide collaborative conservation action for the Philippine pangolin, with wider application for other poorly-known cryptic species.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Papworth, Sarah, Supervisor
  • Turvey, Samuel T, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Sept 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 24 Dec 2021


  • Pangolins
  • Palawan
  • Philippines
  • Local Ecological Knowledge
  • Social Science
  • Camera Trapping
  • IWT
  • Key Informant Interviews

Cite this