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Habitat preference and den characterization of Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in a tropical lowland forested landscape of southwest Sri Lanka

Karawita, H., Perera, P., Gunawardane, P. and Dayawansa, N. (2018) Habitat preference and den characterization of Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in a tropical lowland forested landscape of southwest Sri Lanka. PLoS ONE, 13 (11). Art. e0206082.

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Abstract

The Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is under threat due to hunting for local consumption and illegal trafficking of scales and meat. The dearth of scientific studies on the ecology of the M. crassicaudata has impaired accurate assessments of its conservation needs. This study investigated the habitat preference and burrow characteristics of M. crassicaudata in a tropical lowland rainforest in southwest Sri Lanka. A total of 75 burrows (54 feeding burrows and 21 resting burrows) of M. crassicaudata in four different habitat types i.e. secondary forest, Pine-dominated forest, rubber cultivations and tea-dominated home gardens bordering forest were observed using fixed-width transects in order to characterize resting and feeding burrows of this species. The highest density of resting burrows was recorded from the secondary forest (4ha-1), followed by rubber cultivations (2.5ha-1) while no resting burrows were recorded in the Pine-dominated forest and the tea-dominated home gardens bordering forest. Feeding burrows were more abundant in the Pine-dominated forest (5.7ha-1). The burrow depth, burrow opening height, and width were significantly larger in resting burrows compared to feeding burrows. Resting burrows were located at higher elevations (75-100m) with moderately high slopes (450−600), dense canopy cover (>75%) and away from human habitation. Feeding burrows showed a greater variability in terms of associated environmental features. The study further revealed that Indian pangolins exclusively prefer habitats with rocks and boulders under which they dig resting burrows while the location of feeding burrows largely overlaps with the distribution of prey species. The resting burrow design consisted of a bending tunnel that initially slopes downward and then gradually inclines at an angle between 20 and 300, leading to the resting chamber. Our study highlights the importance of conserving fragmented secondary natural forests in changing landscapes of the southwest lowlands of Sri Lanka as these habitats appear to be critical to sustaining populations of M. crassicaudata.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2018 Karawita et al.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/62884
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