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4 Posts tagged with the conservation tag
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What does the future hold for the Pangolin?  They are rapidly earning the reputation of being the mammal with the world’s highest level of illegal trade, yet many people have never heard of them.

 

Louise Tomsett, Mammal Curator at the NHM, is giving two Nature Live events on Saturday 21st February 2015 - World Pangolin Day - in order to raise awareness of these lesser-known animals, and to highlight the threat of extinction due to the illegal wildlife trade. She will be showing specimens from the NHM’s scientific collections, not normally on display to the public.

 

What are pangolins?


Pangolins are nicknamed "scaly anteaters" but they are not the same animal we generally think of as an anteater. Despite their distinctive appearance, making them hard to confuse with any other mammal, relatively few people know about them. The scales cover most of their body, giving them the appearance of a "living pine cone" or artichoke. They live in a variety of habitats such as grassland, rainforest and agricultural areas such as plantations. There are four species in Africa and four in Asia.

 

Sunda or Malyan pangolin ii.JPGThe Sunda or Malayan Pangolin


Pangolins are well adapted to their ecological niche. They feed primarily on ants and termites, using large, powerful claws to break open nests and mounds, and very long, sticky tongues to lick up the insects. Their specialised ears and eyelids can be closed to prevent attack by ants. The scales are an aid for digging burrows, and help some species climb trees in addition to acting as armour against ants and larger attackers such as lions.

 

pangolin_scales.JPGPangolin scales

 

When threatened pangolins curl up into a tight ball, rendering them virtually impenetrable, even to a lion’s teeth. Their common name ‘pangolin’ even comes from a Malay term generally meaning ‘rolled up’. Unfortunately it is this defence mechanism that also makes them rather easy for poachers to pick up and carry.


Conservation issues


The main threats to pangolins are the illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Trade in pangolins (live and dead) is on an international scale, with confiscated shipments often amounting to tonnes. Quantities found in seized shipments represent only a fraction of the real numbers traded and estimates of the trade indicate as much as tens of thousands of individuals each year. The main drive for trade is the falsely attributed health benefits of pangolin meat and other body parts such as scales. Alleged benefits range from curing acne to curing cancer. In some countries, the sheer cost of the meat and being able to afford it is used as a status symbol. Pangolins are also used as bush meat, for indigenous folk-law rituals and for leather goods.

 

The traditional source for pangolins for the illegal trade is southeast Asia but this is now appearing to change, with African pangolins now a target as Asian pangolins run out.  The consequence is that all species of pangolins are now threated with extinction.


tree or African white-bellied pangolin.jpg

Tree or African White-Bellied Pangolin

 

Pangolins are easily stressed and many die during the hunting and trafficking process, or even once rescued. They are extremely difficult to keep in captivity due to the fact that very little is known about their biology and care. In addition to this a continuous food supply of live ants and termites is very difficult to source. They have rarely been bred successfully and usually only have one offspring at a time so with current hunting levels, populations are not sustainable.

 

giant African pangolin scale.JPGScale of the Giant African Pangolin

 

The NHM’s collections are used by scientific researchers from all over the world. Like many of our collections, the pangolin specimens we hold contain a wealth of information, much of it waiting to be unlocked. For example, the geographical information can provide historical species ranges, specimen tissue samples for DNA analysis shows the genetics of different populations and isotope analysis of samples indicates geographical sources and movements during an individual’s life. All of this information is extremely valuable for conservation.

 

Louise Tomsett

 

#worldpangolinday

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Coral.jpg

 

Conservation of reef corals of the world: why phylogeny matters


Danwei Huang

Postdoctoral scholar, University of Iowa

 

Friday 18 October 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


One third of the world's reef-building corals are facing heightened extinction risk from anthropogenic climate change and local impacts. Extinction probabilities aside, species are not equal. Rather, evolutionary processes render each species, or species assemblage in general, unique with a distinctive history that can be characterised for conservation. My research is aimed at quantifying these patterns based on a robust understanding of the coral tree of life. In this talk, I will show that it is critical to consider species' contribution to evolutionary diversity in conjunction with their extinction risk when setting priorities to safeguard biodiversity.

 

My analyses identify the most endangered lineages that would not be given top priority on the basis of risk alone, and further demonstrate that corals susceptible to impacts such as bleaching and disease tend to be close relatives. One of Earth's most threatened reef regions, the Coral Triangle, is also famously the most biodiverse. While competing ideas are plentiful, the dynamics underlying this biogeographic pattern remain poorly understood. Phylogenetic modelling adds a valuable dimension to these explanations, and can help us uncover the evolutionary processes that have shaped coral richness in the hotspot. Indeed, conservation of the world's reef corals requires protecting the historical sources of diversity, particularly the evolutionarily distinct species and the drivers of its geographic diversity gradient.

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.html

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As part of the Annual NHM Integrated Pest Management Awareness

   

Thursday 26th April 2012

2.30pm - 4.00pm

Flett Lecture Theatre, NHM, South Kensington London, SW7 5BD

 

Armando Mendez, Suzanne Ryder and David A. Smith from the Natural History Museum


Regular trapping and periodical inspections alerted Natural History Museum’s IPM Group to a rise in the number of webbing clothes moths, Tineola bisselliella, in the Museum’s Mammal corridor in late 2010.  This awareness led to the combined use of pheromone lure traps and a new visual display of trapping data.  This was used with the collections management system KE-EMu  to closely follow the evolution of the infestation.

 

At the time, a rodent infestation was discovered in a Museum themed gallery, quite distant from the original moth infestation. However, in this rodent location, Tineola moths were also discovered in textile materials contaminated by rodents. The use of pheromone traps and digital cameras proved that both infestations were linked and that there was a strong possibility that the moths were thriving in the welcoming environment created by the rodents. The pests were using under-floor ventilation ducts to move around the Museum’s public galleries, posing a threat to the Mammal specimens on display in those galleries.

 

To deal with the problems, the Museum’s IPM group coordinated the efforts of several teams to apply remedies based on IPM principles and best practice.Housekeeping, Design & Installation and Estates maintenance teams are working together, coordinated by the IPM group, to control this infestation. A trial of a new pheromone distraction product is also underway.

 

  • The seminar is open to all museum professionals. We welcome colleagues from other institutions who would find the seminar of interest. There is no booking fee and only large parties need to notify the organiser for catering purposes.
  • NHM staff from Science Group and Public Engagement Group are encouraged to attend, whether managers, collections management staff or those who work with and use collections or manage staff who work with collections.

 

Tea and coffee will be available in the seminar room lobby area after the talk.

 

Suggestions for seminar speakers are always most welcome. Please contact the organiser Clare Valentine (c.valentine@nhm.ac.uk


NHM, Collection Management Seminar (see NHM Website for further details on how to attend http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.html).

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A recent major study (Hoffman et al., 2010) involving NHM amphibian scientists Mark Wilkinson and David Gower has concluded that although 20 per cent of vertebrate species are threatened, the rate of loss would have been one-fifth greater had conservation efforts not been in place. Conservation efforts have an effect, but this is not sufficient to prevent loss and extinction, or to meet ambitious international targets.

 

Most scientists in the museum study particular groups of organisms. However, the ecosystems in which they live are complex and diverse, containing a multitude of species.  If we want to understand patterns of global biodiversity loss, it is essential that many different scientists collaborate, so the paper in Science involved the work of more than 160 internationally expert scientists from many different countries, all specialists in different vertebrate groups: amphibians, fish, mammals, reptiles and birds.

 

A standard scale for classifying the level of threat to different species has been developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of which the NHM is a member.  Threats to particular species are set out in the IUCN Red List, which classifies threat levels from Least Concern, through Near Threatened; Vulnerable; Endangered; Critically Endangered; to Extinct in the Wild.  The study considered data for 25,780 species and found that 52 species of vertebrates move one category closer to extinction each year.  Forty-one per cent of amphibian species are threatened due to habitat loss and other factors such as disease.

 

This large-scale work in biodiversity science is essential to enable realistic plans to be drawn up by governments and others to combat biodiversity loss.  2010 was the UN International Year of Biodiversity, the target year for international commitments to slow the rate of biodiversity loss.  These targets were not met and we are now, until 2020, in the International Decade of Biodiversity, for the end of which there are new and demanding targets for slowing loss.

The science done by the NHM and its many international partners will be an essential element in taking effective action.

 

Hoffmann, M. et al. 2010 The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World’s Vertebrates Science 10 December 2010: 330 (6010), 1503-1509.Published online 26 October 2010 [DOI:10.1126/science.1194442]