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.