This week, myself and One More Generation have been launching our Pangolin Awareness Campaign. Today we were invited to present to the students at the JC Booth Middle School in Peachtree City GA. Where Mrs Julie Barry invited us to share our latest animal conservation initiative.
We had the pleasure of presenting to four of Mrs. Barry’s classes today and the students were just fantastic. Each class consisted of about 20 to 30 students and I tasked each one to come up with solutions to the various threats facing pangolins.
Later on this evening we had the privilege of meeting students at the SKA Academy.
For this project, interested students will be drawing on a cut out paper scale to put on a painted Pangolin banner. The project will be done in class with the help of SKA teachers with students who participate in this project receiving hours for the Presidential Service Award. This school is renowned for its talented students and we are looking forward to seeing what they design.
Earlier on in the week we ventured to New York, where students at Hewitt Academy began designing scales for a banner that will be presented at the UN on World Wildlife Day. They also had a story writing element where they had to place their pangolin somewhere in New York city and introduce a fact to the reader about the pangolin that they had learnt throughout the workshop. These strong dynamic girls are looking to deliver the workshop to other years in the school and share what they have learnt about pangolin conservation.
This means that we now total 5 banners in total, including 2 we did at Northwood Academy and Woodward Academy in GA. Northwood Academy’s Kindergarten and K4 produced some wonderful pieces and found out about the pangolin by reading A Pangolin Tale
While those at Woodward Academy also had to incorporate range flags and facts into their designs to add another educational element to the installation.
This week I am in Georgia, USA working with One More Generation. I have designed a huge banner with a pangolin on but the scales are bare.
Artists from around the globe have been creating images that have been printed onto scales that students can colour in and create huge 3D art pieces, while learning about the plight of the pangolin.
Today is the first event and this is a mock up of what it is looking like:
Here are links to some of the artists’ works. Please follow on instagram to see how the workshops go.
One of the other aspects of the project in Sumatra is to develop a rehabilitation and release program. Has pangolins are often so fragile when they are confiscated from the wildlife trade and so difficult to feed efficiently as part of the rehabilitation process, I am keen to tackle thee issues before we start dealing with animals.
The first part of this was beginning to investigate what they eat and see if there is a way to farm the ants at the rehabilitation centre to provide a natural diet for individuals before they are released.
While visiting the potential release site we asked an ex poacher to take us to areas where he had seen pangolin feeding so that we could take ant and termite samples and see what they pangolin may have been feeding on. There is no way to know if this is exactly what it was feeding on, but it is a starting point.
Once we have identified what anothe species are, we can look to see if there are ways to farm them to fed rehabilitating animals. Weaver ants have been successfully farmed using plastic bottles in Thailand, and there is potential to do something like this in Sumatra with both weaver ants and other species that we have identified from the forest.
This is something I hope to experiment with further when I am out in Sumatra in April 2017. In the meantime we are waiting to see if we are successful in securing further funding to build suitable rehabilitation enclosures and a quarantine block.
As the half term approached, it was time to start planning for a whirlwind trip to North Sumatra – an area where I was over the summer holidays. Thanks to Cleveland Metro Parks I secured some funding to develop a pangolin conservation program out here and felt that after the intial ground work it was important to head back and check in with people who I had previously met and see what the next small step could be.
The initial aim was to better understand the perceptions of local people and to find a location where we would be able to develop a release site for rehabilitated Sunda pangolin. We started this in the summer, with a trip to a local village called Kutamale. Thanks to a contact who lived there we knew that there were people who poached pangolin and we spoke to them the last time we visited. Over the past 7 weeks one of the poachers showed an interest in the work that we were doing, and after meeting him last time, and decided to stop poaching pangolin.
As he seemed interested in helping us, I decide to invest in a GPS from the budget. The plan was that he would take out the GPS when he went hunting for wild pig and if he saw a pangolin just mark the location where he saw it. A way of giving him a new skill and some responsibility but without preaching about not poaching pangolin and a way to see how he works. This is also incredibly useful survey information to see where and how often he encounters pangolin.
This week we went up there and showed him how to use the GPS. We also asked if he could help take us to areas where he had seen pangolin to collect some ants and termite samples. It seemed to be a very successful trip.
After we returned from the village we heard that a group of villagers had asked him if he would come out hunting with them and he had in fact said no. This was out of fear that if they saw a pangolin while out the others may take the animal, or may even go out later to collect it. He had made the decision independently that it would be better for him to go out by himself.
This is the sort of encouraging information we need and has not come from offering him a job, or giving him money to stop poaching pangolin but simply building up a relationship, paying him to take us in the forest, offering him new skills and developing a working relationship. We are definitely lucky to find someone like this and I am looking forward to seeing how this relationship develops in the future.
This weekend I am privileged to have been asked to present at a Wildlife Featival at The Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan.
Full of music, art and fun the festival also invites conservationists to talk about their work and engage visitors about the issues in conservation. Naturally, I will be talking about pangolins!
I am hoping to share the issues faced in pangolin conservation and ask he audience to help come up with novel ideas to help. Prizes will be on offer for the best ideas.
Thanks to Future Alam Borneo for organising this excellent event!
My focus this summer has been in Sumatra as we set up some work, initially funded by Cleveland Meteroparks Conservation Fund.
One part of this is to enthuse locals about their wildlife. To start this off we conducted a small school event with some local children in Sibolangit District. They are given regular English lessons and we joined in with an environmentally themed topic, focusing on the Sunda pangolin.
Together we read a copy of ‘A Pangolin Tale: Adventures of an Armored Anteater‘. We then played some games relating to the animals in the book to help them learn the English names. For example, I would say ‘tiger’ and the children would roar like a tiger! It worked both ways, I then had to do the same to learn the names in Indonesian 🙂
Afterwards, we talked about how the scales of the pangolin were made from the same stuff as your fingernails and to remember this all the children created a pangolin picture with their finger prints.
Finally the became pangolin protectors and they all drew an image in the middle of a pangolin shield, which was the same shape as a pangolin scale. .
Although this was only a small event, it is hoped that it can be repeated many times it different places. It can also be developed more and we can teach the children more about the pangolin.
Before we undertake any outreach program it is important for us to understand the perceptions of the people we wish to work with and their attitude towards pangolins.
I often find that poachers are portrayed in a particular light matching either a poor villager who struggles to feed his family or an evil hunter who just wants more money. Maybe this is because it is easier for us to either find sympathy for them or despise them.
I find this stereotyping problematic as we are either just victimising or villainising poachers, it’s untrue and unhelpful. The value of pangolin is so well known that if people see one they will pick it up and sell it. There are actually very few people who go and look for pangolin specifically (because it is so hard to find).
The pangolin is not related to people’s life, they are not a pest on their farms, but they don’t believe that they really help the farms either. They do not want their children to work on the farms, so it is no real issue if they are not here for future generations. In fact, for many of them we had to show a picture of the animal, despite knowing the local name for them.
However, we found out some things that may help: They are afraid of the law. If there was to be some sort of government warning and enforcement people openly admit that they would think twice about selling it. We also employed one of the poachers to help us for the few days we were there. He took us into the forest and showed us where he had found them before and signs that he looked for that he thought were pangolin. He was incredibly useful and organized for us to meet other poachers in other villages. He seemed enthused to work with us.
This gave us some ideas of where we could head in the future.
An important aspect is that different points will have different levels of priority depending on where we are working. This is why investing so much time with interviews is important, we can also re do the interviews in a few years to see if any of the interventions have had an impact.