• 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 289: SPOTTING MY FIRST ILLEGAL PANGOLIN TRADE TRUCK

    Jul 10 2013

     

    In one short day I have managed to  get some information about the whereabouts of the HQ of asia’s supposed overlord of wildlife trafficking as well as find myself a local guide to take me on my journey into deepest Laos.

    When a country is more – how do you say – basic…no that’s wrong, perhaps ‘lawless’, it means its easier to get certain things done . I imagine if a Laotian person came to London and tried to find a guide to help track the movement of cattle from farms it would take a little longer than I did to find the equivalent person out here to help me track the illegal wildlife trade.

    The manager of my hotel seemed massively dodgy – I have nothing to back this up other than the appearance of his squint and the way he chewed his toothpick –  but sure enough he found me a guide in about ten minutes.

    ‘Er, do you like animals?’ was my opening question in the short interview I gave my guide before deciding if I coudl trust him with the  rather challenging journey we had ahead.

    ‘Oh yes, and there is a big problem in Laos with the wildlife’

    That was it. This guy would have to do. I hinted at what we were about to do and asked if he was comfortable with it and explained that I dind’t want him taking any unnecessary risks. But he seemed genuinely concerned about the wildlife issue in Laos. I will not give him name or show any pictures of him other than tell you his name is Barry and he is 8 foot tall. In other words, neither of those things is true.

    Me and Barry found ourselves at the cross roads of two roads where various international traffic routes through Laos meet en route to China.

    At the very end of the day, just as I had packed my bag we also saw a truck full of dogs heading to the border.

    ‘Many many dogs come from Thailand to go to be eaten in Vietnam. Very, very common’  said Barry, matter of factly.

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  • DAY 287: PANGOLIN EXPERT SENDS ME OUT ALONG MEKONG RIVER TO TRACK WILDLIFE TRADE

    Jul 08 2013

    The picture of Vixay Keosavang, reportedly one of Asia's most prolific wildlife traders, living in Laos currently.

     

    (Above: The picture of Vixay Keosavang, reportedly one of Asia’s most prolific wildlife traders, currently living in Laos.)

    ‘I have a wife from Laos, my kids live here’ says the man sitting opposite me in the small café in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, who prefers to remain nameless ‘ its not worth me having any trouble. You’ll have to go on your own, Martin’

    We are sheltering in the freezing air conditioning whilst the 36 degree heat beats down outside. He is an expert in the wildlife trade who wants to help the terrible pangolin situation but is aware of the dangers.

    ‘To be honest Martin, I thought we had the perfect guy to accompany you, he could have shown you all the secret hideouts – the hunters, traders, the hotspots. But I texted him yesterday and he didn’t reply. Today I heard he’s been out of contact for three months. He normally checks in every week. We are worried. He was working on the illegal primate trade. All I can say is, if you want to look into the pangolin trade you’ll be going against some– how shall I put it – influential people. I won’t be able to come with you. The worst that can happen to you is deportation. The worst that can happen to any local you use to show you around… well…it’s much worse’

    A few months ago, on March 4th 2012, the Herald Tribune in the US ran a front page article alongside a photo of a man called Vixay Keosavang that read ‘He is the single largest known illegal wildlife trafficker in Asia’. The quote was from the founder of the anti-smuggling group, Freeland, Steve Galster, who, along with various other agencies has been tracking this single man who appears to be the Osama Bin Laden of the Asian illegal wildlife trade. It is well known that although the illegal wildlife trade is smaller than the arms and drugs trade it is closely connected to both – people often ‘practice’ on wildlife before moving up to drugs although the rewards are now so high for animal parts that they might as well stay with wildlife. The punishments are far less severe.

    Vixay's deputy who was busted in South Africa and given 40 years for attempting to smuggle rhino horn back to Laos. Photo credit: killingforprofit.com, Julian Rademeyer

    Vixay’s deputy was busted in South Africa and given 40 years for attempting to smuggle rhino horn back to Laos. Photo credit: killingforprofit.com, Julian Rademeyer

    Vixay Keosavang reportedly lives in a small town in the heart of Laos where he runs an apparently untouchable business of trafficking wildlife that includes ivory imports and exports as well as pangolin smuggling. His right hand man was recently caught in South Africa trying to ship a load of rhino horn back to the HQ and received a forty year sentence. But Vixay has so far remained elusive and will continue to do so as long as he remains in Laos: he has too many friends in high places and those friends enjoy his money too much. Laos is a deeply corrupt country that is also poor. This makes it a great place to smuggle wildlife.

    ‘What would you like to do in Laos, Martin?’ says my contact.

    ‘I don’t know. Visit Vixay Keosavang’s compound perhaps? Meet some smugglers? Witness the trade first hand. I want to get the story out. ’

    I feel like a fool but I mean what I say.

    My contact, to my surprise, takes me seriously. “Look …what I suggest is that you head East. Keep a look out on highway 13. Traffic comes across the river Mekong from Thailand and goes up to Vietnam on that road. Sit and wait.’

    He leans over the table and shows me a photo. ‘We saw this on that road – in plain sight, two pick up trucks stuffed full of pangolins’

    ‘Can you be sure they are pangolins in there?’

    He is certain. Each blue ball contained a living pangolin rolled up.

    Trucks heading along the border to Vietnam apparently carrying living pangolins rolled into small blue bags. A kilo of living pangolin fetches a few hundred dollars on the market.

    Trucks heading along the border to Vietnam apparently carrying living pangolins rolled into small blue bags. A kilo of living pangolin fetches a few hundred dollars on the market

     

    Then he shows me a photo that he is unable to allow me to publish here. It pictures a large sheet of paper with rows and rows of handwritten figures – some sort of ledger that appears to track all the border crossings for one particular company between Vietnam and Laos, on highway 8, the crossing that my bus just spluttered over.

    ‘See here, it lists all the pangolin shipments across the border. Two or three a week. One shipment shows 495 pngolin totally over $28,000 which amounted in only $300 tax being paid. A lot more money is paid under the table. This just makes the transfer official’

    ‘And why is it official if it is illegal?’

    My route to try and track the illegal trade in pangolins coming across the river from Thailand and onto Vietnam. On the way I might stumble across the HQ of reportedly asia's biggest wildlife trafficker, who knows.

    My route to try and track the illegal trade in pangolins coming across the river from Thailand and onto Vietnam. On the way I might stumble across the HQ of reportedly asia’s biggest wildlife trafficker, who knows.

    A so called 'Wildlife Farm' openly selling its animals. These are used to 'launder' wild animals which are poached from the jungle and then sold on as if they have been bred in captivity. It is legal to sell animals that have been bred in captivity.

    A so called ‘Wildlife Farm’ openly selling its animals. These are used to ‘launder’ wild animals which are poached from the jungle and then sold on as if they have been bred in captivity. It is legal to sell animals that have been bred in captivity.

    ‘Oh the government know all about it. They want the tax. Of course the government pretend it is legal by saying that the wild aniamls have been farmed, which means legally bred in captivity. But everyone knows you can’t do that with wild animals like pangolins..they die in farms. So what happens is that the traders collect the wildlife from poachers and then bring it to their compound and say that they animals have been born there. These farms even openly advertise their products. It’s incredibly corrupt. If you want to find out where Vixay’s compound is I woudl recommend speaking to Julian Rademeyer from South Africa who recently wrote a book about the rhino trade ‘Killing for Profit’, apparently he visited the place.’

    My flight back to the UK is in a few days.  I have to set off tomorrow morning if I am going to see anything. Travelling into Laos can take days on bad roads. That means I have only tonight to get through to Julian Rademeyer in South Africa as well as find myself a non-corrupt guide who will be prepared to take me out to look for the illegal trade.

    Get moving, Martin

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  • DAY 281: TOO LATE TO RESCUE THE DOGS FROM SLAUGHTER?

    Jul 03 2013

    Looking for a dog shelter in Hanoi is like looking for a bacon rescue centre in London. Seeing a dog in the streets of Hanoi is not far different from seeing a pig walking down Oxford Street: you wonder how long before it will be in someone’s stomach. No one wants to help dead-meat.

    Nevertheless, I’ve decided I’m going back to rescue those dogs I saw in the cell at the restaurant just over 24 hours ago (blog time is a bit delayed). A long trip back to the jungle but I hope to bring them here to dog-meat city for a new life.

    Clearly, things are stacked against me.

    1)They might be dead already. There’s no telling how long dogs are kept before being ordered for a snack.

    2) Frustratingly, I cannot get through the pangolin centre to tell them to head to the restaurant to stop them being killed. I will pay of course. I have left eight messages but I must remind myself how strange this will appear – it is like a Laos person coming to London and demanding to go to Burger King to save a really cute cow.

    3) I have no idea where to take these dogs – can they get a proper life? Is there a rescue centre good enough?

    4) I have to find transport for three dogs on the brink of death. London taxis don’t take pigs. I doubt the taxis take dogs over here.

    But as good as the Vietnamese are at eating dog they are equally good at providing service. My hotel staff are so keen to please they would probably pop the whitehead on my forehead if asked. So when I ask for a taxi to take me back to the Cuc Phoung National Park…

    ‘Yes, how long you stay please in our beautiful park?’

    ‘Five minutes.’

    ‘Oh…’

    ‘Then I come back. With dogs. That people want to eat. I rescue them’

    Only a slight pause, then. ‘Yes, sir, no problem’

    Foreigners must appear …so foreign. It is not long before they find a facebook cat rescue group.

     

    Some sad news

    I call up the cat rescue. A woman is practically in tears at the idea of a dog being killed. This is a welcome surprise. I agree to take a taxi to meet her immediately. Just as I leave I get through to Phoung and urge him – right now – to go and stop the dogs being killed. Things are moving fast.

    But thirty minutes later, after I drive off into the Hanoi madness (the taxi going against the motorbike traffic like a boat struggling upstream) I get a text

    ‘I am Hung, Phoung’s assistant, I go to Nho quan for see three dogs (we see yesterday) like you asked and so I sorry, but when I go there I ask salesman but he says ‘kill’ all’. Sorry for this’

    My heart sinks.

    Another one of the millions of dogs out here has bitten the dust. I feel awful but in a strange way relieved – the stillness of death seems nothing like the pain of the path leading up to it. But the guilt sets in. I should have done something sooner…

    The cat rescue centre - very surreal to find this in Hanoi, Vietnam

    Cat rescue home

    I arrive, deflated, at the cat-rescue woman’s house. On a small bustling street the house is open fronted like a vast café spilling out on to the street with many young people – average aged 21 – sitting inside drinking milkshake and scanning the internet on large-faced mobiles. On the floor are tiny cats playing with electric mice and paper butteryflies and on the wall are pink-framed pictures of cats. I have entered a surreal Asian cat fantasy bar: I imagine that at any minute dancing girls and swirls of pink and candy floss will appear.

     

    Cat pictures on the pink walls of the cat rescue centre. So someone loves animals around here....

    Cat pictures on the pink walls of the cat rescue centre. So someone loves animals around here….

    I bought 4 and wore them around Hanoi. Yes, I looked like an idiot but who cares.

    I bought 4 and wore them around Hanoi. Yes, I looked like an idiot but who cares.

    I drag my sorrow inside, take my shoes off and then, from a young woman, I buy four badges that say ‘I LOVE DOGS’ on them

    This is the new wave of animal lovers coming through and it’s good to see. I meet my contact, a young and eager Hanoi girl. I tell her about the dogs being killed – she was sad but not surprised

    ‘They kill them very soon after capture. We don’t rescue dogs from the dog meat trade – we are not allowed to use the money we raise on that because the killers will jiust go back and get more dogs’

    That made me feel better – but not much.

    ‘Why do so many people eat dogs then? If some of you love animals’

    ‘Actually many people they love their dogs. My father too!He brush his dog every day, he feed it good food he stroke it. Then he go out and eat dogs in restaurant’

    I was surprised. But later, after having a conversation with Ann, she made me realse there is nothing strange about this at all. Many farmers love their animals and still eat meat. This man is making a distinction between dog-as-pet and dog-as-food. This is no more abitrary than our own distinction between dog as pet and pig as food. Both are drawing a compassionate line in the sand, one within a species, one across a species, which are as divisive and ultimately, meaningless as each other. (we draw the same boundaries within our own species on a daily basis: we love our families, we care far less about strangers. Perhaps her father is more honest about the limits of his compassion then us dog lovers???)

     

    A difficult river to cross.

    This journey into compassion feels at times like walking across a river on floating planks. I’m looking for solid ground but at any moment I might sink under the weight of my own inconsistencies. What is right, what is wrong?

    Over there on the far bank seems to be a land with answers but which I am not sure I want to reach. A land of veganism where I must let ants come into my house and where I will beaten with cold slabs of tofu. A place where I have to be open to a lifetime of the pain of species all over the planet….a place where I have to accept that those people I love – and those that I do not – are somewhat blind to the mass torture of innocents on a scale which, numerically at least, is without precedent.

    Does anyone know how to build a bridge??I’d like to maybe go back and forth a little.

    I’d like to apologise to those of you that have offered money to save these dogs. Maybe next time. I’d also like to thank those of you who have donated to the puppies. They have new names: GIPPER (meaning ‘happy’ in Korean) and DAISY or LUCKY depending on sex. Thank you!

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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 279: TWO PUPPIES SAVED FROM DOG MEAT TRADE – CAN YOU HELP ME NAME THEM?

     

    I have rescued these two puppies, but it was a long and painful story that left me feeling awful about some other dogs left behind. But these now have new lives.

    Will you help me name them?

    The first people to donate $50 can name one of these dogs – if you aren’t first then the money goes to feeding them for two whole years!!!!

     Read on.

    The two puppies that were saved from slaughter....

    The two puppies that were saved from slaughter….

    The three dogs that were left behind to a very uncertain fate.

    The three dogs that were left behind to a very uncertain fate. Shall I go back??

    I just heard that two of the pangolins that were seized on the Chinese border are left alive. They are now in Hanoi, 4 hours away, and I have been told I may go but have to wait a day – paperwork, routine, corruption probably, it’s all so frustrating when the poor creatures might have a chance of being saved here in the rescue centre..

    To regain a sense of control I started asking about dogs and whether I could help any. Dogs…my fall back position.

    ‘Oh,’ said the wildlife guide here, ‘it very easy to eat dog. Everyone does it! I take you to a dog meat market’

    ‘No, no, I want to save some dogs not eat them’…then I started thinking. Could I face it? Could I help?

    ‘OK, we go to dog market’

    Unlike the Philippines it is legal to kill and eat dogs over here. The pooches aren’t farmed like in Korea, but this isn’t necessarily that much better. People breed their dogs, keep one or two for utility and sell the rest at 3+ months to restaurants. They may also sell the first one or two dogs if they get sick or dont’ behave or they need the cash. So a relatively free pet  finds itself couped up in a concrete cell behind a restaurant waiting to have its throat slit. No stunning first.

    one of the puppies that would end up for dog meat before it was rescued.

    one of the puppies that would end up for dog meat before it was rescued.

     

     

    Dog meat – not my idea of fun

    The idea of dog meat is as far from my comfort zone as London is from Hanoi. But I feel I need to see where the dogs go to be kept before they are slaughtered. As a recent meat eater attempting to heal the divisions in my soul I ought to look at some painful contradictions: if I ate pig then shouldn’t I see what goes into dog meat?  They are both smart animals, they both have a right to life.

    But what to do then? Do I rescue a dog? Will that not make the whole thing worse? Where do I put it?

    I asked frantically if there was anyone that would care for a dog if I rescued it.

    It turned out that the pangolin keeper, Mr Thang, a 60 year old or so with a kind face, had two dogs at home and another had recently died – at 22 years. I asked if we could go to the market via his house so I could see what conditions he kept them in and when we did I saw a simple but comfortable home where the dogs were well-looked after. It was worth a chance. I promised to provide enough money to pay for 4 years food – $200.

     

    Mr Thang - the pangolin keeper who also has dogs at his home. He agreed to take on this puppies for life. Thank him not me...

    Mr Thang – the pangolin keeper who also has dogs at his home. He agreed to take on this puppies for life. Thank him not me…

     

    Dog meat restaurant visit

    After a short while on our motorbikes, my guide and Mr Thang found a local restaurant that sold dog meat. In the back was a small concrete cell where they kept their dogs – the owner happily showed us three small animals. They sat  in the dark, heads bowed, eyes unwilling to make contact with us. A small bowl of water on rough concrete. The owner took out a stick with a sharp metal hook and prodded the dogs on the necks and they howled. I got furious and stopped him. He laughed at my apparently inappropriate reaction.

    One dog, the smallest, then looked up and stared into my eyes with a hang dog expression and that was too much. I had to get him out. Call me a softy.

    The cell where the dogs were kept

    The cell where the dogs were kept

    Buying a dog from the dog meat trade is a highly suspect thing to do. Short term-ism. You buy one and the owner then buys two more to replace it. And yet…. what is this year about it not following my heart before my head? Rescuing a dog would not solve the dog meat trade but it would solve an entire life for that individual dog. What would I do if that dog was moose or bug?

    But the haggling was a disaster. The man wouldn’t drop below $70 and both my guide and Mr Thank demanded I leave. That was way too much money and he would simply buy another 3 or 4 dogs. I pleaded but they urged me to go, My Thang saying that he thought the dog would be sick and too aggressive. It was his call and reluctanly I got on the motorbike, a bag of invisible guilt hanging off the back of my seat, dragging through the dust as we bumped back towards the rescue centre.

     

    The restaurant owner who controlled his dogs with pole and hook

    The restaurant owner who controlled his dogs with pole and hook

    DO YOU WANT TO NAME A DOG?

    I pleaded to go back. Finally they had a better idea.

    They knew someone that had recently had a litter. The dogs would be bound for the meat market in a few months and we could buy a few who were not sick for very little money. We stopped off at a small farm and Mr Thang’s eyes lit up as we found two perfect dogs for about $10 each. We took them back to his house, introduced them to his other dogs and fed them and watered them. Mr Thang is not a vet but he is a nurse, able to offer injections and elementary care. This is better for the pups than having their throats slit, lets put it that way.

    I gave Mr Thang $100, promised to give him $100 more when he reported back in 3 months on their welfare and left.

    The first two people to donate $50 can name these dogs (if you donate but are not first the money will go to their on going care, food, and medical bills).

    Mr Thang, very happy with his two new additions. Please donate $50 if you want to name them!

    Mr Thang, very happy with his two new additions. Please donate $50 if you want to name them!

    IMG_8814

     

    IMG_8799

     

     

    Still feel awful

    BUt I tell you – I still feel awful about the dogs in the cell.

    What can I do? I’m here to help – I have to get them out…

    thinking hard…

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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…

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    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.

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    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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