DAY 276: ANTS WILL TAKE OVER THE WORLD AND EAT OUR FACES…unless we save the pangolin
For the last few days I’ve been living in a crappy bedroom by the forest spending much of my time clearing baby frogs from under my bed (WHERE DO THEY COME FROM??) and reading about pangos, photographing pangos and hanging out with LUCKY as though we might elope together.
Here are some more essential pangolin facts including the little known notion that if they die out we may just be taken over by face-eating termites. Nevertheless, on a daily basis pangos are dying in bags rolled into balls staring at their own tiny penises ….not a way to go for such an important little creature.
1) WHY SHOULD I CARE? WHICH PANGOLINS EVER WROTE GREAT LITERATURE OR HELPED OLD PEOPLE ACROSS THE ROAD?
Cuteness aside pangolins are a vital part of the ecosystem. Kill them and the ants take over the world. Well, to be fair, we dont’ quite know but pangos do eat A LOT of ants and termites.
But actually – forget that. Let’s be honest. As much as it matters, I don’t care about ants making lots of babies in the jungle and nor do you. If you were as eco-aware as that you’d sleep in a hemp bag and never read this blog because after all, electricity kills. Nevertheless the ants COULD get you.
Well …how about this. A 70-million-year-old really cool species will go extinct, maybe in a decade or two.
Actually – forget that too.
Terribly controversial but I’ve never been as worried about extinction of a species as extinction of an individual. Shoot me now. Its not the idea of Pango as a taxonomic unit in a reference book with a latinate description that worries me as much as the thousands/millions of creatures that are utterly defenceless being killed in the most cruel way possible
Pain is what hurts. Pain is what matters.
2) OK, IF WELFARE IS THE ISSUE, HOW BAD IS THE SITUATION?
Every day tens or even hundreds of pangolins are thought to be smuggled across the borders of Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and China. Exact numbers are not known but we can make a good guess: SHIT LOADS.
Conservative estimates assume that seizures represent 10% of the total haul. And in 2011 a single seizure of a boat caught 17tonnes of the meat. The zeros in the death toll are too big to fit in my brain. The senseless slow deaths are are horrifying as they are totally SILENT.
3) BUT YES, HAVE PANGOLINS EVER WRITTEN GREAT LITERATURE OR MUSIC? WHY SHOULD I CARE??
Actually, yes.Listen to Life’s a Ball and Roll with me (by Adam and the Ants) or try reading…er…that really amazing book with a pangolin pun in the title that I’ve forgotten but is great.
4) ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT…SO EXACTLY HOW ARE PANGOLINS CAUGHT?
These are the nets they now use to catch which are considered more ‘humane’ (ie. the pangos die eating their own shit rather than being shot or hung with razor wire). This is not because the traders care about pangolins but because living pangos are worth more.
They then inject them with water – or if they are lucky, excuse the pun – with rice starch to make them weigh more to sell on the market for profit.Pangolins often die of stomach ulcers caused by stress or the wrong food.
I repeat – no pangolin has ever bitten anyone. No pangolin ever fought back or swore at anyone. They are innocent.
5) WHY AREN’T THE VIETNAMESE DOING ANYTHING?
A fair bit. But its not making enough of a difference. There are a huge number of protected parks and there are laws and there are great organisations like the rescue centre I visited (CPCP) or ENV (click here). The problem is that a) the wildlife trade is getting rampant because winnings are high and punishment is low b) the country is somewhat corrupt and politically sticky. We need global support for the current vietnamese efforts (as well as other countries)
For example, when pangos are confiscated at the border a loophole in the law allows guards to sell them on for ‘sicentific benefit’, which ends up meaning to restaurants or back into the trade. Pangolins are saved and then sold back to the enemy. We hope for this loop hole to close very soon but it could take years.
6) WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT PREACHER MARTIN?
Look, I know, I know. I feel like a chanting girl at a murder scene waving fluffy things around while crimes are being committed. And if you touch a pangolin it pretty much dies so what hope do I have? Elope with Lucky to a remote island and live off ants? I’m trying damn hard: I’m going to try to get into the poaching areas or to the smuggling routes to at least witness the trade, but as one of you reminded me, this is a huge international criminal affair that doesn’t offer tourist sightseeing trips. And I’m not vietnamese – I’m 6’4″
7) IS ANYONE THAT IS MORE TALENTED AND POWERFUL THAN YOU, MARTIN, DOING ANYTHING USEFUL?
For the first time ever, there is a world conference on pangolins happening RIGHT NOW (I think it actually finished today) . 50 of the top pangolin experts are rolling into Singapore to scale up their conservation efforts. The strange thing is WE STILL DON’T MUCH ABOUT THESE CREATURES so don’t think it’s all under control. It isn’t. But its a wonderful start. Dan Challender, Chris Shepherd et all – go protect!!
8) WHAT CAN I, THE BLOG READER, DO TO HELP?
Strange as it sounds start by
1)simple caring. Engage your head and heart. It does matter.
2) Then tell others about it. Pass on this blog, read more about them
3) Finally stop eating that pangolin burger and curing your baldness by balancing pangolin scales on your head. IT WON’T WORK. Go and pray to the moon – that will.
4) If you visit LAOS, VIETNAM, MALAYSIA, CHINA, CAMBODIA be aware that you are in pango territory. You might want to read up about them, visit some conservation centres or make your feelings known to other travellers.
5) donate money to the very small and frugal pangolin research centre that I stayed in (CPCP) who don’t yet have a web site and are not government supported. $1 cares for Lucky or any other pangolin for a whole day. Send money to myself marked PANGOLIN and I will pass it on. Like their facebook site here
6) Or support any of these with pangolin conservation programmes
- IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group www.pangolinsg.org
- Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) in Cambodia www.accb-cambodia.org
- ASEAN-WEN www.asean-wen.org
- Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program in Vietnam www.carnivore-pangolin.org
- Conservation International-Cambodia www.conservation.org
- Education for Nature Vietnam www.envietnam.org
- Fauna & Flora International www.fauna-flora.org
- TRAFFIC www.traffic.org
- Wildlife Alliance www.wildlifealliance.org (and donate directy to their pangolin program via their Global Giving page)
- Harapan Rainforest www.harapanrainforest.org
- Tikki Hywood Trust www.tikkihywoodtrust.org
- Pangolin Research Mundulea pangolins-namibia.blogspot.com