• DAY 305: HAVE I FINALLY LOST IT? RESCUING FROGS WHILST AVOIDING TINY DANCERS IN HANOI

    Jul 26 2013

    The start of this video is a little grim but don’t worry, it quickly fades into farce. At the time of making this I was all enveloped – now looking back on it I worry for my sanity.

    There is a lake in central Hanoi which is ‘protected’ from fishing. It lies serene in the heart of the old town amidst the incessant urban busyness around it. I have just released some fish and frogs into this lake from a rather brutal market. This sounds reasonable enough but I found myself walking round and round this lake, through dancers, badminton players, tourists, street vendors, tai-chi experts, all the while carrying a bag of frogs and live fish, panicking about where was best to release them.

    The street markets in Vietnam are fairly grim. I never thought I would wish death upon a creature like I have just done now. But seeing the way they kill – or rather don’t kill – the fish to keep them fresh right up until cooking is heartbreaking and makes me what to end it for them sooner rahter than later.

    It’s clear to me, as it shoudl have been a long time ago, that the suffering of fish is no different than the suffering of other creatures. Any distinction was in my mind, caused by a segmentation of compassion that I see echoed throughout the word: some creatures we care about, other creatures we don’t and the reasons and the reasons are never based on logic but prejudice instead.

    Vietnam is over and I feel empty-handed. How many pangolins did  I save?

    Zero.

    But how many could I have saved. I suspect zero .

    This is a global fight, and it begins in the hearts and minds of all of us.

    If you would like more information about pangolins or what you can do then see below:

    1) If you visit LAOS, VIETNAM, MALAYSIA, CHINA, CAMBODIA be aware that you are in pango territory. You might want to read up about them (see below), visit some conservation centres or make your feelings known to other travellers.

    2) Donate  money to the very small and  frugal pangolin research centre that I stayed in (click here for the 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

    3) Support any of these with pangolin conservation programmes

     

    FINALLY – PASS ON THE LINK TO THIS BLOG.

    GO PANGOLINS!!! We have only a few years left to save them. WE CAN’T CRAWL INTO A BALL AND IGNORE THIS.

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  • DAY 303: HOW EASY IS IT TO BUY ILLEGAL PANGOLIN SCALES IN HANOI? I TRY AND FIND OUT.

    Jul 24 2013

     

    Don’t for one minute think that the illegal wildlife trade is fundamentally tied to poverty, it is not.

    If anything it’s the very opposite. As countries get richer, especially China, they demand more ‘status’foods and medicine. The rich Chinese businessman likes impress with a tasty Pangolin soup or Tiger wine and despite there being no proof whatsoever that it works, they still demand TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine

    It is easy to laugh at TCM. It seems, from the outside, as plausible as witchcraft or voodoo and as ritualistic and cruel as both. But think again. We have homeopathy, we have horoscopes. There has been for some time a £1,000,000 reward for anyone that can scientifically prove that homeopathy works, and for many more years a steady flow in astrology charts in teh back of popular magazines. Granted, homeopathy doesn’t involve the wiping out of entire species and horoscopes don’t involve ritualistic torture but their claim to irrationality is perhaps equally as impressive as any pangolin soup.

    Get inside the mind of a chinese person wanting sharks fin soup.

    And then get out as quickly as possible.

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  • DAY 302: THE PANGO STING FALLS FLAT: I DELAY FLIGHT BY THREE DAYS ONLY TO MISS THE BOAT BY ONE HOUR

    Jul 23 2013

    There’s one fatal flaw to travelling round the world trying to help animals and writing a blog about it: stories start but they rarely finish.

    I find it hard to give neat Hollywood endings. It’s also find it hard to look like Brad Pitt when accidentally drowning a tortoise.

    Today we arrived at the cool darkness of the banks of the Mekong river to try and witness the illegal pangolin trade coming across from Thailand en route to Vietnam and then China. We got there at the painfully pointless time of 5:45am to find out that we had missed the haul by an hour. Neon lights flickered in the darkness and there were remnants of suffering. Large plastic crates littered the floor. My guide found out a few hours earlier they had been used to transport the poor creatures which were then transferred to bags and put in trucks.

    A 3 day delay to my flight only to watch a murky sunrise over the grey waters of this vast river.

     

    Time is constantly ticking.

    In a few weeks I have a self imposed deadline to start my work on farms and so must leave the pangolin story behind in exchange for some work on pigs that I am doing in Europe. More to follow.

    I was nervous about the filming today.

    I feel an unhealthy mix of excitement and misery every time I find myself pushed into dangerous and illegal situations for the sake of tyring to help or raise awareness. Why do I get into these situations? It proves that so many animals live at the torn edges of society – a place that should be inhabited by no-one.

     

    Not my photo. Obviously. But only today 137 pangolins were seized in Vietnam en route to China. Many were dead, nearly all will die. Get them out of those bags!! So f***ing sad...  (from vietnamesenews.vn)

    Not my photo. Obviously. But only today 137 pangolins were seized in Vietnam en route to China. Many were dead, nearly all will die. Get them out of those bags!! So f***ing sad… (from vietnamesenews.vn)

     

    Driving back home we saw a woman on the side of the road bent over a dog crying. The dog had just been hit by a bus. It’s face was crushed, neck broken at 90 degrees. A very common fate given that so many dogs are running freely along the roadside. I was surprised to see that level of emotion associated with animals out here. I suppose I’ve become a little too cynical. Of course people care, but their boundaries of compassion are different than ours.

    But everything is so bloody raw here. It gets to me. Perhaps if I stayed here longer I would become numb to it.

    What a terrible thought.

    Tomorrow I’m back to Hanoi where I’m going to visit some more markets in an attempt to save more animals before heading home. As a dear friend said to me recently upon being told of my rescue attempts

    ‘Martin, you are pissing into the wind’

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  • DAY 300: WHY I NEED TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT CLIVE

    Jul 21 2013
    I can't show a picture of my guide in case he gets seen. So here are some random kids under a goal post

    I can’t show a picture of my guide in case he gets seen. So here are some random kids under a goal post

     

    I’ve extended my stay in Laos by 3 days with fairly catastrophic effects to my UK diary.

    We have had a tip-off that a load of pangolins are coming across the Mekong from Thailand at 6am tomorrow. They will be at a fairly small port on the edge of the jungle, carried over before dawn by groups in long boats and then loaded up into trucks heading to Vietnam. I’m determined to actually SEE some criminal activity.

    But I’m concerned for my guide. I’m going to call him Clive because that is obviously not a Laotian name, and I mustn’t reveal his identity.

    It will be almost impossible for me to show my face without giving the game away so I will likely stay in the car listening to Celine Dion. But its also not wise for my guide to get involved with a group who will likely be involved in other criminal behviours, like human death. I have already dumped a tortoise in a fast flowing river, I don’t want to see my guide drifting upside down along the mekong. At the risk of damaging dramatic reading for you, my dear friend, I have asked him to stay at a safe distance and wave my iphone in the air as if looking for wifi whilst playing a video recording over his shoulder. I won’t let him get close. If we get caught I’ll say he was dacing to Celine Dion – a very dubious event in any case.

    The mekong river where I hope to see some pangolin traders caught in the act

    The mekong river where I hope to see some pangolin traders caught in the act

    Clive likes jungle deer

    Clive is a truly excellent character. He’s been taking me wherever I want to go, is very tolerant to my random pangolin urges and only occasionally asks me for more money (every few hours his rate seems to go up). On the whole we get on great but occasionally I am reminded of the chasms between our cultures. Laos is becoming westernized at a rapid rate, but not THAT quickly

    The other day I found him buying a huge amount of illegal bush meat at the very same market where I rescued the tortoises from. Wild deer face and jungle rat stunk out the boot.

    He supports what I do but I suspect he thinks I am stupid.

    Which of course I may be.

    When I asked why he bought so much illegal meat whilst also  wanting to support conservation efforts and wild animals he said ‘because it is dead already’. This was always my argument for eating steak when I felt guilt as a teenager so I stayed silent.

    I've always loved having crabs. Live crabs at a market

    I’ve always loved having crabs. Live crabs at a market

    Snake for sale!

    Snake for sale!

     

    Sex and money

    ‘Did you have a first love, before your wife?’ Clive asked as we drove a winding track through the jungle.

    ‘I did have some girls that I felt strongly about’

    ‘Did they leave you for other men’

    ‘Yes, one did. She probably chose a man who was more talented and funnier than me’

    ‘I am sure that is true’ (Listen Buddy, Laos humour is different from English humour) ‘But he was also much richer than you I think. You are poor, Martin?’

    ‘Oh, I don’t think it works like that’ I said a little defensively.

    ‘But money makes you more attractive. When a very fat old German woman came here she had sex with a young Laos boy. She was very rich and he was very small.’

    ‘Well, in England if you have a very very fast car every one thinks you are an idiot. Most people do.’

    ‘England is so strange.’

    ‘Sometimes’

    ‘Also, I don’t really like the way of gay people very much but once a very rich gay person paid me something and it was OK.’

    I didn’t ask further about that one. He was a happily married man, although he was quite open about all this.

    Later that evening, when he asked me to a party in a small town full of lots of rich gay people I decided to decline. I had a video to edit after all. Tomorrow the sting at the river crossing. Or maybe not.

    God, I don’t feel I am saving many pangolins. Sorry dear reader. I’m really trying.

     

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  • DAY 291: FOUND IT! OUTSIDE THE HQ OF ASIA’S MOST WANTED WILDLIFE TRADER

    Jul 11 2013

    Just outside a small town on the north side of the Mekong river is the home and HQ of one of the world’s most wanted Asian wildlife criminals, Vixay Keosavang.

    This was a (very brief) video I made. I didn’t ring on his doorbell I’m afraid. Didn’t have the balls (or insanity). It’s probably not a safe place to hang around for too long

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  • DAY 283: I’M OFF TO LAOS TO GET CLOSER TO PANGOLINS

    Jul 05 2013
    Laos, my new destination - home to many pangolin. Or at least, once it was....

    Laos, my new destination – home to many pangolin. Or at least, once it was….

    Finally a reply to the 523 email/phone calls I’ve made around the world. An expert group has given me a tip-off that I must cross the border to Laos if I want to get closer to the elusive Pangolin trade – more info to follow shortly.

    I will leave immediately without knowing who they are or where I am to go except for meeting someone in the capital – Vientiane, tomorrow.

    Laos is one of the most lawless and vibrant areas for wildife trade and a key point on the route for Pangolins travelling from Thailand and elsewhere to China over land. If I am going to see anything I will see it there. 

     

    laos-location-map

    Laos lies to the west of Vietnam, tucked above Cambodia and Thailand and beneath Burma and China.  It isn’t  as famous as its neigbours, geographically, culturally or politically, althought it had far more bombs dropped on it per sq mile during the US war (actually more than any country in the world). I went a long time ago – dense jungles, lush green landscapes, vast rivers, kind people – I was surprised it wasn’t a more desired location. But it was also very very poor. Rich in nature, poor in pocket: a perfect combination for a painfully successful wildlife trade. I doubt there are any pangolins left. But it is beautiful, that is for sure.

    Beautiful but ravaged - the wilds of Laos are becoming emptier and emptier because of the wildlife trade.

    Beautiful but ravaged – the wilds of Laos are becoming emptier and emptier because of the wildlife trade.

     

    I have only a few days left so I am not sure what I will see – whether it be hunters, living pangolins, international trade trucks, whispering criminals, empty forests…..or nothing at all. But I have one chance….

    to save money I am taking the 25 hour bus journey over the mountains for $25. Luxury, here I come.

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  • DAY 280: DOGS AWAITING SLAUGHTER WEIGH HEAVY ON MY MIND AS I VISIT RESCUED PANGOLINS IN HANOI

    Jul 02 2013
    The wildlife rescue centre in Hanoi where I went to visit the remaining living pangolin - and where I was not allowed to take photos

    The wildlife rescue centre in Hanoi where I went to visit the remaining living pangolin – and where I was not allowed to take photos

    I’ve not slept well.

    I’ve been thinking about the remaining three dogs in the restaurant cell, awaiting their end. Is this sloppy British sentimentalism – or reasonable compassion?

    I’ve had to leave at 6am to get to Hanoi to see the pangolins before it’s too late. They too are about to perish in the rescue centre after their ordeal enroute to China. This is why I am here. I have to see them.

    The four hour journey from jungle to city has me wracked. I want to go back and rescue those dogs – or at least the youngest, the one with the hopeful stare – but at the same time it’s no solution. I have no where to put them and if they are released on to the street they will be caught again. The m0ney will just back into the dog meat treade. They are agressive too…and nervous and likely very sick.  And yet I am here to help. Fuck. If I was tougher I would put them on a rope and walk to Hanoi. I am not that man.

    Perhaps I should be

    I visited the government wildlife ‘rescue centre’ north of Hanoi to see the pangolins – but was only allowed if I took no photos of the pangolins (why I have no idea). A vast concrete complex, empty and parched and  sad, like a third world school out of hours. Occasional officials in smart uniforms strutting with communistic pride but otherwise full of echoes and emptiness. Then, far at the back, endless cages, some small, some vast, tuffed full of ‘seized’ wildlife from the trade.

    Young tigers, frantic civets, nervous gibbons,wide-eyed Loris, jungle cats, vast birds of prey. Hopelessly out of context in metal cages that stand in the heat. The animals are waiting for something that will never come: release. What will happen to them?  These are the so called lucky ones – the ones that have been caught from the traders but I fear for their future. This is no place for the sick animals and I can not imagine that many do well.

    the civets and pangolins were in the dark cages below the windows. I was not able to photograph them. grim

    the civets and pangolins were in the dark cages below the windows. I was not able to photograph them. grim

    The bare rescue centre

    The bare rescue centre

    Gibbon and child

    Gibbon and child

    IMG_6135

     

    Stroking a tiger

    I find myself stroking a tiger through the cage. A stupid thing to do but weirdly appropriate for this lawless non-zoo. I guess I want to give some human touch. A gibbon reaches out and tries to grab me with its long arms. It has a  baby that is so small that it has escaped the cage and sits on top  in new found freedom unsure of where to go next. Go back in to your mother before you grow to big! Or maybe just run….

    Then we see the pangolins. Depressing as hell. We walk into a  circular concrete building that has around it’s perimeter two rows of cages at floor height. Every single one has a civet inside it – a cat like creature that sells for about $30 on the market for meat – except for two cages that each have a small pangolin inside, rolled up into the inevitable ball on the hard concrete. Even I can see they are emaciated. These are the only two survivors of the 57 that were confiscated on the border of vietnam and china.

    Why the hell can’t these go to the proper rescue centre up in Cuc Phuong National Park where I was staying? Paperwork apparently. I ask to see the dead pangolins (7 of the 57 initially survived and were transported down here, 5 then died). But I am not allowed? Why? Why? I fear they have already been sold for meat to restaurants.  There are no answers here and I feel short changed.

     

    BACK FOR THE DOGS!

    Screw it. I’m going back to the jungle to rescue those dogs. I’ve decided. I’ll find a way. Enough animals in cages. I’m calling the pangolin rescue centre and will ask them to go and stop them being killed. Act first and worry later. There must be a home for them in Hanoi (where they eat dogs…Martin, what are you doing??????)

    Will report back…

     

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  • DAY 277: UP PANGOLIN CREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE

    Jun 30 2013
    This is not actually a real photo but an artists impression of how I FEEL

    This is not actually a real photo but an artists impression of how I FEEL

    I feel a bit lost. Like I’m lost in the jungle. Ask Ann, I’ve just been on the phone whining to her.

    My arms are pumped up but I have no paddle. I desperately want to help the pangolins but if go out into the wild to find one I’ll be eaten by snakes, if I rescue one from a trader it will die on me, if I feed Lucky peanuts he will roll over and expire and if I all I do is tell you about it you’ll get bored of me like Pippa Russell did on my first date , aged 10, when I showed her my breakdance moves.

    I’ve bought a local phone and made over sixty calls to various international experts in the fields – charity workers, biologists, Phd students, scientists, government officials – to find out where I can go to get more access to the illegal trade. Either no one knows or they won’t answer my calls or they are out eating pangolin burgers or my phone is actually a child’s phone that pretends to make calls.

    In the meantime I’ve given up rescuing the frogs and decided to accept I am one with nature. I’ve named the frog that appears every morning Chad and the cockroach Josephine on account of her elegant walk.  The termites have moved in and the mosquitoes live on the toilet wall. It does raise an interesting point though: to accept animals as having rights doesn’t mean you have to love them. As Peter Singer, the philosopher and poster boy for the animal liberation said, just because you believe blacks should have the same moral consideration as whites doesn’t mean  you have to to coo at them and love all black people. I have decided therefore to put a mosquito net and stop the frog sleeping under my pillow.

    NEWSFLASH

    Weirdly, after writing this I got a message from Phuong to say that 57 pangolins have just been seized on the Chinese border. And get this, already 48 of them have died. Those 48 have already been sold on to restaurants but the other 7 are on their way to Hanoi. I’m going to try and go and get them…..

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  • DAY 276: ANTS WILL TAKE OVER THE WORLD AND EAT OUR FACES…unless we save the pangolin

    Jun 29 2013
    Pangolins are in a terrible hole? How can we help?.... read on...

    I shall save you from the ants…but you must save me. Pangolins are in a terribly dark place at the moment. How can we help?…. read on…

    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. 

    We're off to tenerife to get wasted together

    We’re off to tenerife to get wasted 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.

    one of eight frogs I have now found under my bed and 'rescued'. What can I say, everyone wants to sleep with me...

    one of eight frogs I have now found under my bed and ‘rescued’. What can I say, everyone wants to sleep with me…

     

    ants will take over the world and eat your face...unless we save the pangolin

    ants will take over the world and eat your face…unless we save the pangolin

    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.

     

    I suffer

    Lucky again…

     

    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.

    'Lucky' occasionally gets pissed off and sulks in this corner, clinging to the fence. ..but not for long

    ‘Lucky’ occasionally gets pissed off and sulks in this corner, clinging to the fence. ..but not for long

     

    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.

    Lucky takes a while to wake up in the morning (which is his evening) but he gets there in the end...

    Lucky takes a while to wake up in the morning (which is his evening) but he gets there in the end…

    blog3-8

     

    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.

    The wonderful Phoung of the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP) in Cuc phoung national park showing the nets that are used to 'humanely' capture the pangolins for the illegal trade

    The wonderful Phoung of the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP) in Cuc phoung national park showing the nets that are used to ‘humanely’ capture the pangolins for the illegal trade

     

    Fattening up pangolins by holding them down and force feeding rice starch through a pipe. If the pipe goes down the windpipe they die

    Fattening up pangolins by holding them down and force feeding rice starch through a pipe. If the pipe goes down the windpipe they die. Courtesy of ENV vietnam, see link below for the story behind this image…

     

    read this:

    http://envietnam.org/E_News/Daily_News/Fattening_up_pangolins_to_earn_billions_of_VND.html

     

    5) WHY AREN’T THE VIETNAMESE DOING ANYTHING?

    They are.

    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.

    When we visit Lucky at night he hears us coming and sticks his snout through the door.

    When we visit Lucky at night he hears us coming and sticks his snout through the door.

    blog3-16

    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″

     

    Food is stuffed and hidden in bamboo to make the pango work a little...

    Food is stuffed and hidden in bamboo to make the pango work a little…

    or put high up in containers covered with heavy stone...

    or put high up in containers covered with heavy stone…

    ...or stuffed away...

    …or stuffed away…

    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!!

    http://www.pangolinsg.org/news/

     

     

    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

     

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  • DAY 274: MEET ‘LUCKY’ THE PANGOLIN

    Jun 27 2013

    Meet ‘Lucky’.

    So called because he is one of the very  few pangolins to survive the illegal trade . 

    I feel fortunate too  – most pangolins are  shy, nocturnal and roll into a ball (and then die) when near humans. But this one has been in the rescue centre a while and seems to actively want to hang out with me. 

    It’s an odd experience to hold a creature that is so rare and little-understood.

    Its scales are tough but underneath is a sort of golden dust that can be blown away in a single breath. Most pangolins perish within days, if not hours of capture .Even when they are confiscated and trasferred to a rescue centre most pass away.Their special diet of termites and their unique behavioural patterns and habitat are hard to replicate.

     

    What do I have to do to persuade you I'm cute??

    What do I have to do to persuade you I’m cute?? ‘Lucky’ poses for the camera. Most pangolins are far too shy to be photographed like this…

    And up....and...

    Lucky shows of his skills. And up….and…

    ...made it..

    …made it..

    A blessing or curse?

    This vulnerability is both a blessing and a curse.

    A blessing because pangolins have thwarted all attempts to be farmed  – thus avoiding the persucution that has befallen some bears in the bile farms of china. A curse because science has some way to understanding their role in the ecosystem and knowing how to keep the few that are in captivity alive. As is the case with the tiger, rare animals in captivity are an insurance against extinction : they can be re-introduced later.

    Not the pangolin. Once the last is eaten, the Chinese businessman will put down his chopsticks, shake on the business deal and the pangolin ghost will float to heaven . Only in Tapei zoo are there reports of a pangolin giving birth to a baby that survives… but its a rarity beyond belief.

     

    A view up from the rather beautiful yet terrifying (at night) jungle walk to the centre.

    A view up from the rather beautiful yet terrifying (at night) jungle walk to the centre.

    CPCP

    At the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Programme (CPCP) here in Vietnam they’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to look after their pangolins. They have less than a dozen here (which is a lot) but they take up a vast area and a lot of resources just to keep them going. Those that do well they attempt to reintroduce to the wild (in a secure park area) but its tentative stuff.

    I am staying ten minutes walk away in the park hotel, a short walk through the forest. Since most pangos wake at night I walk at darkness in my shorts, terrified , luminous white jello. Every stick I see is a snake, every frog at least ten times its size.

    Each pangolin has a large enclosure to itself with its own burrows, feeding stations, trees, sleeping hollow. Everyday they are given tasks to get their food – known in the conservation world as ‘enrichment’.  Food is hidden in bamboo shoots, or under heavy stones or in new locations. Any animal in an enclosed environment will mentally and emotionally atrophy without new stimulation.

    The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program has huge enclosures in which to keep pangolins

    The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program has huge enclosures in which to keep pangolins

    When the pangos wake up (randomly in the night) I get into the cage and take crap pictures with my torch. I’m not allowed to use a flash – whcih is handy because I forgot it. Being a professional photographer.

    Take a careful look at ‘lucky’. He is the lottery winner that didn’t expect the winning ticket. All the other pangolins won a free dinner… in a chinese restaurant.

     

    Kind of undignified but if I have to pose like this to make people remember me so be it...

    Kind of undignified but if I have to pose like this to make people remember me so be it…

    Don't turn your back on me...the pangolins need you

    Don’t turn your back on me…the pangolins need you

     

     

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