Scaling up local ecological knowledge to prioritise areas for protection: determining Philippine pangolin distribution, status and threats

Lucy Archer, Sarah Papworth, Charity Apale, Darlyn Corona, Josefa Gacilos, Ronald Amada, Carly Waterman, Samuel T Turvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Local ecological knowledge (LEK) can provide cost-effective baseline ecological data across large geographical areas, and is increasingly seen as an important source of information for rare and cryptic species. However, to date its use as a practical tool for prioritising conservation action is limited. Pangolins are the world’s most heavily trafficked wild mammals and all species are in decline. The Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) is Critically Endangered but conservation efforts are hindered by a lack of knowledge on where populations still exist and where in situ action should be prioritised. We conducted the first range-wide systematic survey for the species using household interviews (n=1,296) to provide new data on pangolin distribution, status and threats, and to assess the use of LEK for highlighting priority areas for conservation. LEK about pangolins was high (87% of respondents recognised pangolins and provided further information), with evidence of pangolin occurrence in 17 of the 18 municipalities surveyed. The majority (70%) of respondents had seen a pangolin, but most (72%) perceived pangolins to be ‘rare’ or ‘very rare’, and local use of pangolins was reported across the species’ range. Spatial differences in sighting frequencies, perceived abundance and reported population trends were observed, providing an important baseline to identify priority sites for targeted research and community-based pangolin conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01395
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Early online date3 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Local Ecological Knowledge
  • Philippines
  • Spatial prioritisation
  • Population baselines
  • Pangolins
  • Palawan

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