Wildlife Alliance has been saving Sunda Pangolins from the illegal wildlife trade since 2001. The Sunda pangolin is considered to be the most trafficked mammal in the world (IUCN 2014).


“This remarkable mammal has touched our hearts with its strong maternal instinct and calm nature.”

– Suwanna Gauntlett, Wildlife Alliance Founder & CEO

When we arrived in Cambodia, the pangolin was listed as a Common Species. Just 15 years later, it was unfortunately relisted as Critically Endangered. High levels of poaching for the illegal wildlife trade has rendered Sunda pangolin populations almost extinct. Demand for their scales in neighbouring Vietnam and China in ‘Traditional’ Chinese Medicine’, as well as for their meat amongst the upper class, has provided poachers with a high incentive and has consequently decimated pangolin populations.

Wildlife Alliance has rescued 401 live Sunda pangolins since 2001:

  • 385 by our multi-agency anti-wildlife trafficking unit, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team, WRRT, from smuggled shipments on national roads, on their way to Vietnam and China, and raids on restaurants in the main urban hubs.
  • 16 by our Cardamom Forest Protection Rangers, as they patrol the dense monsoon forest, removing lethal traps from the forest floor, rescuing live animals from these traps and checking motorbikes coming out of the forest (poachers often hide pangolins under their motorbike seats).

Wildlife Alliance directly protects the Cardamom Mountains, one of the main habitats for the Sunda pangolin and Southeast Asia’s largest remaining mainland dense monsoon forest, through systematic ranger patrolling. Working in partnership with the Royal Government of Cambodia, Wildlife Alliance’s Cardamom Forest Protection Program (CFPP) protects 1.4 million hectares of the Cardamom Mountains. Barbaric snares, made from a simple rope or metal wire, are the biggest threat to Cambodia’s wildlife and will kill anything that strays into their path, including pangolins. The specialised ranger units over 10 stations have removed more than 259,000 snares and confiscated more than 690 motorbikes, often used by poachers to traffic pangolins underneath the seat. 

As well as our CFPP, our Community Anti-Poaching Unit (CAPU) are a highly experienced patrol unit that patrols the forests around Chi Phat, the location of our Wildlife Release Station that rehabilitates pangolins. CAPU ensures released pangolins have in-situ protection and the unit has removed more than 10,000 lethal wildlife traps since their establishment in 2008. 

Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Release Station (WRS) rehabilitates pangolins that are rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. Rescued pangolins are provided with a health check and, if deemed suitable, are immediately ‘hard-released’ back into their protected habitat. Those that are too young or injured are rehabilitated following general IUCN Reintroduction Guidelines. Individuals are rehabilitated in enclosures inside the forest at WRS for approximately 3 months to become acclimatized to the area in a ‘soft release’, where the enclosure door is opened and food is provided for as long as needed.

As well as being trafficked onto neighbouring Vietnam and China, pangolins are frequently being trafficked to major urban centres in Cambodia to be sold in restaurants. In addition to our continuous efforts on the ground to fight the illegal trade in pangolins and the wider consumption of bushmeat in Cambodia, our #StopEatingWildlife social media campaign aims to fight the supply, demand and consumption of wildlife meat. We aim to do this by making consumers more aware of the health risks eating wildlife poses and how the trade supports the brutal snaring crisis of Cambodia’s wildlife. Furthermore, it aims to draw attention to the threat the wildlife trade poses to public health,as we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, at the global level to an international audience. epidemiologists and conservationists around the world are calling for an end to the illegal wildlife trade and Wildlife Alliance is joining them too.

By tagging and tracking pangolins that have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade and rehabilitated back into the wild, Sovath and the team hope to understand how to improve release protocols of pangolins.

As part of our #StopEatingWildlife campaign, Wildlife Alliance is calling on people to stop the consumption of wildlife.