Article

Predicting the potential distribution and habitat variables associated with pangolins in Nepal

Citation

Suwal TL, Thapa A, Gurung S, Aryal PC, Basnet H, Basnet K, Shah KB, Thapa S, Koirala S, Dahal S, Katuwal HB, Sharma N, Jnawali SR, Khanal K, Dhakal M, Acharya KP, Ingram DJ & Pei KJ (2020) Predicting the potential distribution and habitat variables associated with pangolins in Nepal. Global Ecology and Conservation, 23, Art. No.: e01049. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01049

Abstract
Pangolins are highly-threatened due to illegal hunting and poaching, and by the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of their habitats. In Nepal, effective conservation actions for pangolins are scarce due to limited information on the distribution of pangolins in many areas of the country. To identify the nationwide distribution of pangolins in Nepal, and assess the environmental variables associated with their habitat, we conducted an extensive literature review to collate data from previous studies, canvassed information from key informant interviews and expert opinion, and conducted transect surveys and sign surveys. The occurrence of pangolins was recorded based on sightings and indirect signs (such as burrows, digs, tracks, and scats) along 115 belt transects of 500-m length with a fixed width of 50-m, and habitat parameters were surveyed using 347 quadrats of 10 m*10 m. Pangolin presence was confirmed from 61 out of 75 districts from the eastern to the far western parts of the country. The highest frequency of burrows (74%) was observed in the forested habitat constituting brown soil with medium texture (0.02–2 mm) within an elevation range of 500–1500 m above sea level. Logistic regression suggested that the occurrence of pangolin was highly influenced by ground cover and canopy cover of 50–75%, litter depth, and the distance to termite mounds and roads. We used 4136 occurrence GPS points of pangolin burrows that were compiled and collected from the literature review and field surveys in order to predict the potential habitat distribution of pangolin using maximum entropy algorithm (MaxEnt 3.4.1). The model predicted 15.2% (22,393 km2) of the total land of Nepal as potentially suitable habitat for pangolin, with 38.3% (8574 km2) of potential habitat in the eastern region, followed by 37.6% (8432 km2) in the central and 24.1% (5,387 km2) in the western regions. The results of this study present a national baseline for pangolin distribution and serve as an important document for developing and executing conservation actions and management plans for the long-term conservation of pangolins in Nepal.

Keywords
Burrows; Distribution; Chinese pangolin; Indian pangolin; MaxEnt modelling

Journal
Global Ecology and Conservation: Volume 23

StatusPublished
FundersWWF/USAID/Hariyo Ban Program
Publication date30/09/2020
Publication date online30/04/2020
Date accepted by journal03/04/2020
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/30985
PublisherElsevier BV
ISSN2351-9894
eISSN2351-9894