Factors influencing the habitat choice of pangolins (Manis spp.) in low land of Nepal
Pangolins in the genus Manis are nocturnal, burrowing, insectivorous mammals listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Two species of pangolins are found in Nepal: the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata). Despite having high conservation priority, little attention has been given to conservation interventions of both species of pangolins found in the Terai region (low land) of Nepal. The present study assesses habitat use and factors affecting the habitat choice of pangolins in low land (Terai), Nepal, focusing on Amritdharapani Community Forest of Chitwan district. Pangolin burrows were used as the indirect signs, and opportunistic sampling method was used to record the burrows. After the identification of all occurrence sites (burrows) in the field, random points were generated excluding the points where burrows were recorded for sampling of nonoccurrence sites. A total of thirty‐nine burrows were observed at elevations ranging from 301 to 413 masl. Burrows were frequently associated with northwest aspects, gentle slope (15°–20°), moderate canopy cover (51%–75%), red‐colored soil, and acidic soils with pH 6.5–7. The burrows were most common in areas with weak human disturbance (i.e., 1,500–1,700 m from settlements), 800–1,200 m from roads, and within 300 m from a water source and within 20 m from the nearest termitarium. Distance to settlement, distance to road, soil pH, and canopy cover were found to affect the habitat choice of pangolins in the study area. The present study assesses habitat use and factors affecting the habitat choice of pangolins in low land (Terai), Nepal. The research was focused on Amritdharapani Community Forest of Chitwan District. This study revealed distance to settlement, distance to road, soil pH, and canopy cover as major factors affecting the habitat choice of pangolins in the study area.