The Pangolin Universal Notching System (PUNS): A Foundational Scale Marking Methodology for Pangolins

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Jeannie Jo-Miller Martin , Jacqueline Y Buckley, Ellen Connelly, Lisa Hywood, L. Mae Lacey, Rachel Ruden, Deo Ruhagazi, Anna Wearn


Abstract Due to significant anthropogenic pressures, all eight established species of pangolin are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the highest level of international protection possible. Pangolin population status assessments are incomplete, particularly in areas with high exploitation and limited field assets. Currently, there is no universal scale marking methodology available for pangolins despite half of pangolin programs marking scales, with each program creating and managing its own systems, leading to inefficiencies and inconsistencies, as well as limited data sharing. Therefore, the creation and implementation of a universal marking code is essential for effective pangolin conservation efforts. Pangolins comprise a unique animal order, with many morphological and behavioural characteristics that make simply adopting a coding system used for other species impractical. Pangolins have keratinized scales, similar to hard-shelled turtles, a drilling system like that used for scutes would be effective. However, given the potential volume of pangolins that could be encountered, a numerical system similar to what is used in hoofstock and capable of generating a large quantity of codes is also necessary. The Pangolin Universal Notching System (PUNS) is a standardised, large-volume, numerical-based system for marking all pangolin species. It will provide the ability to address critical knowledge gaps in the areas of pangolin ageing, reproduction, survivorship, trafficking patterns, and migration. Further, it is neither resource nor training intensive–factors which facilitate accessibility and implementation globally–while minimising stress and health risks to individual pangolins.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Zoology


Pangolin, Scale Marking, tracking, Wildlife Conservation, endangered species, Smutsia, Phataginus, Manis


Published: 2023-11-20 18:22

Last Updated: 2023-11-20 23:22


CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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