Pangolins are ancient creatures that appeared in fossil records possibly going as far back as 35-55 million years. Deforestation and intrusive human activities have disrupted their forest ecosystems extensively, leaving pangolins vulnerable to illegal hunting and other dangers. In light of these challenges, Hikvision has begun working with environmental protection partners to provide intelligent video technologies that protect these renowned – and precious – guardians of the forest.
Strongly shielded, but critically endangered
The Pangolins' unique natural features play an essential part in balancing their delicate ecosystem. Pangolins use their long, curved claws to tear apart ant and termite nests. Their tongues, which can be up to 16 inches long, gather insects burrowed underground. Feasting on termites and other insects keeps these gentle creatures well-fed, but it also mitigates the destruction of the forests that the insects would otherwise cause. Pangolins are also equipped with protective keratin scales, similar in material to our fingernails. When in danger, they roll into a ball so that their fragile parts – stomach and face, for example – will be protected by the armor-like scales that are so tough most predators cannot bite through them.
In spite of the strong shield pangolins wear, their population has declined at an alarming rate – the result of poaching and illegal trade. Ironically, it was their scales, their primarily protective attribute that put them in danger. Even with no scientific evidence to support any medicinal value, a pangolin's scales are believed to remediate common health problems like arthritis. Their meat and blood are also thought to be a helpful treatment for swelling, palsy, and other diseases.
Worse still, the destruction of their habitats further exacerbates their plight. Pangolins feed almost exclusively on ants and termites. Such a simple diet makes them particularly poor at adapting to changes in their environment. In China alone, the population is estimated to have decreased by an exorbitant 90% since the 1960s, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to put the Chinese pangolin on its red list as a Critically Endangered animal.
Thankfully, the future looks positive
The good news is governments and international organizations over the years have intensified their efforts to crack down on poaching and illegal trading of pangolins. Significant resources have been dedicated to their protection and breeding in the field. The United Nations has declared the third Saturday of February as "World Pangolin Day" in order to raise awareness about protecting these creatures across the globe.
In addition to stringent law enforcement measures banning trafficking and trade, focus has also been placed on surveying and monitoring wild pangolin populations and their habitats. Patrolling forests and mountains has radically diminished poaching efforts while also strengthening on-going research on the artificial breeding measures currently underway.
Hikvision technology helps guard the guardians of the forest
Hikvision Digital Technology, Inc. has recently begun working with partners to help protect pangolin populations in the Wuqinzhang Reserve in Guangdong, China. The video technology company, known mostly for its security products and applications, provided an intelligent video system designed, in this case, for protecting these animals. The system integrates professional video software with dedicated functions including AI-equipped cameras that can identify this unique animal automatically. The system further analyzes nearby animal activity and monitors human contact with wildlife.
Before this time, research in the reserve was impeded by the lack of data and video footage on the local ecosystem in general and pangolin activity in particular. Researchers were forced to travel dozens of kilometers on foot deep into mountainous areas and dense, unfriendly forests only to collect very limited data. After the Hikvision system was put into place, however, workers have been able to access large amounts of video footage, studying and documenting pangolin living habits. These valuable materials currently help reveal and restore populations as they facilitate the work of researchers.