A Critically Endangered Sunda pangolin rescued after loosing a leg to a snare gets its wound cleaned with iodine by vets at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center.
What is an ‘Endangered species’? We hear the term used all the time, and the definition is quite broad, subjective, and open to interpretation. The IUCN defines an Endangered species when ‘there is a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future’. Why would we care about these species? What are we doing to prevent their extinction? Endangered species breeding programs are thought to contribute significantly to the conservation status of many species. By providing safety/insurance populations, which can be managed to ensure genetic diversity, and to some extent disease status, these individuals can then be introduced to existing wild populations or be used to create new populations in other suitable habitats.
An Endangered female pileated gibbon at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center.
Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rescue and Care Program is directly contributing to the wild populations of at least four Endangered, or Critically Endangered, species in Cambodia. Eld’s deer Rucervus eldii siamensis, Pileated gibbon Hylobates pileatus, Sunda pangolin Manis javanica and Silver langurs Trachypithecus germaini are all being bred at Phnom Tamao or our Wildlife Release Station, and reintroduced at one of our three release sites within Cambodia. In addition to the breeding programs, these species are often rescued and released, either with or without a period of rehabilitation depending on their age and health status.
One of the benchmarks used to judge the success of a breeding and release program is the released individuals’ survival and reproduction, as well as the survival of their offspring in the wild. To date, we have released 11 Eld’s deer, four gibbons and four pangolins, all of which were captive-bred. Post-release monitoring has confirmed that the Eld’s deer and gibbon have successfully reproduced, raising young under what is considered to be semi-wild conditions (in that supplementary feeding is still provided). Although post-release monitoring for pangolins occurs in the form of VHF-transmitters and daily tracking, visual observation is difficult for this elusive and nocturnal species, so we cannot confirm they have bred once in the forest. However, there is work underway to conduct more robust tracking for future releases which will provide more information on their release outcomes and inform future protocols for the species.