Set on the gateway to the lake Der Chantecoq, the natural stop over for tens of thousands of common cranes on their way to the Iberian Peninsula, sits the little town of Montier-en-Der, France. Over the past 18 years it has grown into a must-attend event for amateur and professional nature photographers along with the general public and nature lovers. This year the four day festival accommodated over 80 exhibitions of which PPNat – Photographers for the Preservation of Nature, created a display putting the spotlight on the pangolin.
“It is during our travels through Namibia, Zimbabwe and Vietnam, that we became aware of the alarming situation of the pangolin. In 2012, after meeting Lisa Hywood and Maria Diekmann, the photographers of PPNat decided to raise awareness about pangolins, and to promote the conservation NGOs helping the pangolin. The AFPAN, organizers of this festival, immediately responded enthusiastically and gave their full support to the ‘Plight of the Pangolin’ project, and help represent pangolin conservation on a global scale.” say Elyane and Cedric Jacquet, co-founders of PPNat
Through PPNat’s invite, IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group attend alongside key stakeholders The Tikki Hywood Trust, Save Vietmam’s Wildlife, R.E.S.T. (Rare and Endangered Species Trust) and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. Many of these NGOs received donated medical supplies and field equipment handed over at the festival.
A centrally located stand gave the majority of the 45,000 festival-goers access to information about the pangolin, highlighting the plight they face. With 95% of those visitors unaware of what a pangolin is, this was a huge step in raising the awareness for this animal. Several artists from several countries supported the plight of the pangolin, making some stunning pieces of artwork in brush, charcoal and pencil. These artwork pieces are being sold to raise money for conservation organizations doing field work.
Lisa Hywood (Tikki Hywood Trust), Chris Shepherd (TRAFFIC Southeast Asia) and Louise Fletcher (IUCN), all shared their experience talking about their fight in the protection of this extraordinary animal. This culminated in a fascinating conference ‘What’s the future for the pangolin?’
Louise Fletcher, presenting on behalf of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, spoke about her experience releasing rehabilitated Sunda pangolin in Vietnam with Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. This was further supported by literature from the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group’s recently published action plan ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation’ (Challender, Waterman and Baillie, 2014). Fletcher highlighted the need for field work on both wild and released individuals to improve conservation efforts and the importance in continuing to develop rehabilitation and release programs that are applicable to all eight species.
Lisa Hywood beautifully described her experience over the past twenty years with the African species and in particular the ground pangolin, speaking about the dedication required for the successful rehabilitation of individuals rescued from the illegal trade. Something which her organization, The Tikki Hywood Trust, has experienced tremendous success in having just released their 26th rescued pangolin over the past two years. The Tikki Hywood Trust believes that all range state countries need to improve the implementation of their own wildlife laws. Together with this we also need to work towards getting all 8 species of pangolin up listed to CITES Appendix I which will offer this species further awareness and protection.
The presentation by Chris Shepherd from TRAFFIC Southeast Asia put the shear extent of the trade network involved in the trafficking of this species into perspective. Shepherd emphasized the need for increased enforcement for the successful protection of this species, fully supporting the work achieved in Zimbabwe as an example of what should be implemented range wide. Shepherd also highlighted that commercial breeding of pangolins was not a viable option due to the slow reproduction rates and difficulties in keeping pangolins in captivity and the extremely high demand for pangolins. He also cited poor capacity to monitor and regulate breeding operations of any wildlife in Southeast Asia as being another major conservation concern.
Radio and TV interviews caught the attention of national and foreign magazines who are also interested in the fight to save the pangolin and the exhibition will tour to other major nature festivals in Belgium, France and Italy, with the opportunity to exhibit at the Natural History Museums of both Brussels and Paris.
These contacts and a short film due for release soon will help to elevate the animal’s profile by introducing a petition to governments to support the upgrade of all eight species to Appendix 1 on CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) at the next meeting in 2016. This would prohibit any commercial trade of this species.
On behalf of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, Louise Fletcher would like to express her gratitude to the members of PPNat and AFPAN for their support and look forward to future collaborations in the fight to save this species.