ORYX Outlook – World Pangolin Day – Raising awareness of the Worlds most trafficked animal
Today is the fifth annual World Pangolin Day. The pangolin is quickly becoming an icon of social media conservation awareness and an example of how powerful social media campaigns can be.
Back in 2014 pangolins hit the news when it was reported that they were the most trafficked animal on the planet, more so than elephants, rhinos and tigers. Current data suggests about 10,000 pangolins are trafficked annually although the reality is probably much greater. Some estimations put the figure at over a million pangolins having been trafficked in the past decade.
Of the eight species of pangolin four are found in Asia and four in Africa. The Asian species are listed as “endangered” with the Sunda pangolin and Chinese pangolin being “critically endangered” and the four African species listed as “vulnerable”.
The threat to pangolins is that they are viewed as a luxury food across Asia and their scales are used in traditional medicine with consumers wrongly believing that they will cure a variety of ailments. Growing wealth in countries where pangolins are eaten is increasing their consumption at restaurants serving bush meat. With the flesh of a single pangolin selling for hundreds of pounds it is no wonder they are sought after by wildlife traffickers. Such is the demand that it is rapidly driving these mysterious animals extinct.
One of the real issues with pangolin conservation is that nobody really knows much about them, their basic biology has been relatively unstudied and little is known about their habits in the wild. Unlike lions, tigers, elephants and rhinos that many children have in soft cuddly form and can see in zoos, the pangolin is relatively unknown and does not fare well in captivity. This means public support and government funding is limited.
Things are starting to change however with a concerted social media campaign by IUCN/SSC Pangolin Specialist Group taking up the cause alongside other groups and individuals such as CNN reporter John Sutter who went undercover on the trail of pangolins after being voted for to cover the topic as part of CNN’s Change the List project.
The effort has helped raise the profile of the pangolin significantly culminating in a push for World Pangolin Day today. The challenge is to translate the social media momentum into a reduced demand for pangolins and pangolin scales. Reaching the consumers of the pangolins that may not know that it is illegal to sell or that each of the eight species are endangered or vulnerable is crucial.
While authorities are cracking down on pangolin restaurants and high tech solutions such as molecular tracing of confiscated pangolins is helping to unlock the criminal networks, these measures may only serve to push the trade further underground. Reducing the demand is the key to saving the pangolin and that can only be done through awareness in the countries that consume these amazing animals.
Support the cause by sharing Pangolin related content on social media!
For more information visit the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group website: www.pangolinsg.org
Or watch this video: