DAY 311: I CHAT TO ONE OF THE WORLD’S PANGOLIN EXPERTS – WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Reluctantly I have to say goodbye to Lucky and the rest of the pangolins as I move on with this year. Let’s hope it is not forever. By most accounts these magnificent creatures have limited days left on our planet.
I feel deeply moved and somewhat helpless by my brief encounter with a magical animal that has done nothing to harm us and we have done so much to destroy it. I’m also becoming uncomfortably angry about the Chinese – which is not useful. So much points to China though…(I heard today that some people in China are now SNORTING rhino horn)
Some big news for Pangolins….
A few weeks ago an unprecedented pangolin event happened. That doesn’t sound exciting if you are planning your friday night at the bowling alley but it’s big news if you entire family is going to be wiped out: the world’s pangolin experts convened to discuss how to stop the decimation of these species. There are many world pangolin experts.
I spoke last night to the Brit who is helping to spearhead this, Dan Challender, who is currently completing a doctoral thesis on the Asian trade of pangolins. Despite clearly being an expert his reasons for getting involved with pangolins were reassuringly down-to-earth
‘I decided to study Pangolins because they were kind of crazy. They are fairly shy, they waddle in this comical way, they keep themselves to themselves and they are fairly harmless. So little is understood about them. If the trade continues on the basis of historical harvesting I woudl think we may see the asian pangolin going extinct in 10-15 years’ he says. But he is deeply unsure. So little is known about these creatures, we desperately need more research.
So I asked the big question:
WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP PANGOLINS GOING EXTINCT?
I always thought conservation was fairly straightforward. It involved tigers, whales and rhinos (oh, and the perigrene falcon) and all you had to do was stop people killing the animals by giving the government money. A man stands on the highstreet dressed as a cute tiger holding a cash tin. Job done.
But Dan explained it was far from simple. The solutions are more complicated than a rubiks cube in a dark room. Every facet has to be examined, reexamined and the complex solutions are interlocked and numerous.
1. SOLUTION 1: STEM DEMAND
Dan said that crucially they have to lower the demand for pangolins, mainly in China
And how to do this?
Social marketing, targeted campaigns, says Dan. But that involves cutting through cultural bias all the noise of a rapidly changing economy belonging to the world’s biggest nation. And who exactly do you have to persuade and how do you measure the results? It requires the skills of a Saatchi marketing genius, the compassionate intelligence of a David Attenborough and the mathematical nouse of Carol Vorderman (maybe not) – all who have to speak fluent Chinese.
Anyone know anyone?
2. SOLUTION 2: CREATE PANGOLIN STRONGHOLDS
We know so little about these creatures we are not even sure where they are. We can’t breed them in captivity so must instead find locations where they still thrive and protect those places like fort Knox.
Money needed for research and protection
3. SOLUTION 3: INCREASE ENFORCEMENT
Somehow we have to persuade the local authorities to get their act together in stopping and then punishing the criminals. So many criminals still get away with trafficking that the deterrents must be stronger. This is a lengthy diplomatic and political process but will be helped by…
4. SOLUTION 4: RAISING AWARENESS
Pangolins suffer from a deeply unsexy image. The giant panda has had a massively raised profile in china. I suspect this is because you can make cuddly toys versions of them to give to children and their big black eyes look like they’ve been punched in teh face. Pangolins don’t go plush very easy.
I was surprised that Dan said we could do with some celebrity involvement.
Sad but true, a smiling face of jennifer Ashton can make you stop eating whale fat, the glinting white teeth of brad Pitt stop you devouring shark fins. Quite how that works my tiny brain can’t fathom but clearly it does.
Basically we need to get the likes of an Obama, or perhaps an ageing Jason Donovan behind the pangolin issue. Actually, let’s not get Jason Donovan. We might loose the pangolins quicker than ever. But you get my point.
Do you know any celebrities that might come on board?
5. SOLUTION 5: INNOVATE
Finally Dan said we must all innovate. Come up with ideas to raise awareness and money. Write blogs, make films, paint pictures of pangolins, get things out on facebook, sell t-shirts. This DOES make a difference, however trivial it may seem. So I’m going to think about this and WANT YOUR HELP.
What could we do to raise awareness?
Could we make a product to sell?
How about selling some prints on auction?
FINALLY DAN MADE IT CLEAR THAT MONEY DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
IF YOU FEEL YOU CAN SPARE ANYTHING TO HELP THE FEW EXPERTS THAT ARE FIGHTING FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THIS WONDERFUL, BEAUTIFUL, HARMLESS CREATURE THEN PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE DIRECTLY TO THE PANGOLIN SPECIALIST GROUP RUN BY DAN
Tomorrow: I report on my visit to the secret police store in London housing all the illegally traded wildlife contraband that comes through London. It’s more varied than you might think. Then I move on (reluctantly) to the issue of animals in farms. Gulp