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Monday, April 7, 2014

From the News: Plight of the Pangolins

Despite my longstanding irritation with the media, CNN has won some begrudging respect from me for its "Change the List" program.  Written by columnist John Sutter, it is a series of articles meant to shine a light on some important - but perennially uncovered - stories that affect the world.  Previous examples have included rape culture and river pollution.  The most recent issue to be highlighted is the decimation of wildlife for Traditional Chinese Medicine, both in Asia and abroad.  Instead of focusing on rhinos, tigers, and other charismatic mammals, Sutter has chosen as his poster child one of the world's strangest, least known mammals: the pangolin.

The idea the Sutter has is that the pangolin's plight (I'm writing in the singular, though there are multiple species across Africa and Asia) is so dire because so few people know about it.  Those who do know about it tend to be the folks exploiting it.  By spreading awareness of the species, he hopes to influence some positive change and enhanced protection.  It's a concept that's at the heart of many zoo education programs (not entirely applicable in this case - pangolins fare notoriously poorly in captivity) - people need to know what they are losing, and they need to be engaged with animals in order to protect them.  The first step is teaching them what it is...

No telling how much impact the Sutter stories will have on pangolins.  Every few posts in the comments section you get someone complaining "Who cares?  Don't we have bigger problems to worry about?" (apparently not, in their cases - they had the time to read and post).  A few news clips in the US or UK does not automatically equal protection or enforcement in Africa and Asia.  Still, the only way that we know that no one will save the pangolin is if no one cares at all.

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