The potential for radiocarbon to understand the illegal pangolin wildlife trade

Dr Rachel Wood1, Ms Erin Barr, Dr Stewart Fallon

1Australian National University, , Australia

The eight species of pangolin found in Asia and Africa are the only truly scaly mammals, and the worlds most illegally traded animal. Between 2000 – 2019 an estimated 895,000 pangolins were taken from the wild, primarily for the trade in pangolin scales for use in Traditional Asian Medicine, and the trade appears to be increasing (Challender, et al., 2019). The IUCN has noted that research is required into life history and ecology, and trade trends. Basic information required for demographic models, such as life span, is not yet known, and there is currently no way to ascertain how long it takes pangolins to reach the Asian market following capture. This pilot project aimed to establish whether radiocarbon dating of scales could be used to examine how quickly pangolin scales grow, how scale growth is related to the age of the animal, and thus whether radiocarbon could be used to aid study of pangolin demographics and the wildlife trade.

Challender, D.W.S., Heinrich, S., Shepherd, C.R., Katsis, K.D., 2019. International trade and trafficking in pangolins, 1900-2019, in: Challender, D.W.S., Nash, H.C., Waterman, C. (Eds.), Pangolins : Science, Society and Conservation, Elsevier Science & Technology, San Diego, pp. 259-283.



Rachel is a Senior Lecturer split between the School of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University. Her research has focused on archaeological applications and radiocarbon pretreatment for Pleistocene-aged samples.

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Nov 16 2021


1:30 pm - 1:55 pm