Hey, everyone! It’s Olivia from OMG here.
This month I have the pleasure of introducing everyone to one of my favorite animals in the world—the pangolin. Yes, I spelled it correctly, and I did not say penguin! I am talking about pangolins, which surprisingly and sadly are now considered the most poached and trafficked mammal on the planet—and most people don’t even know what they are.
My brother and I saw our first pangolin in Vietnam a few years ago. Since then, we have been reaching out to pangolin experts and working on creating a campaign that will help raise awareness about the species.
Louise Fletcher is a well-respected pangolin expert and an accomplished artist. She lives in the UK but spends a lot of time in Asia helping pangolins. With her help, we recently launched our year-long Pangolin Awareness Art Campaign. Louise recently visited us, so I asked her to write up a little something about the project.
By Louise Fletcher
The pangolin has reached the status of “most trafficked mammal you’ve never heard of”, with figures of up to one million having been poached over the past decade. That works out at one #Every5mins. With the future of all eight pangolin species hanging in the balance, the need for education about their plight is imperative.
The pangolin, often referred to as an armored anteater, is covered in a layer of keratin scales, which predators as fearsome as lions and tigers are unable to penetrate. However, this successful defense against natural predation does nothing when facing the wrath of human greed. So, what could be more fitting than for those working to rebuild and strengthen a pangolin’s armor pledging themselves as Pangolin Protectors?
For the past six years, the third Saturday in February has been marked as World Pangolin Day, an event that has grown in following since its birth. World Pangolin Day 2017 saw the launch of One More Generation’s (OMG) Pangolin Awareness Art Campaign, combining art, literacy, science, and social studies to develop an installation with a message from the youth around the world.
For the launch of the campaign, students at several schools in Georgia and New York attended a workshop that culminated in the display of a banner with a “fully protected” pangolin. The students were first introduced to what a pangolin is, sometimes through reading A Pangolin Tale. They were presented with a painted banner of a pangolin and a pango-pup—but the pangolin had no scales. Their task was to color or design scales that would cover the animal and provide protection. Many of these scales had sketches of pangolins drawn on them by artists from across the world, including countries where the pangolin resides, adding a truly collaborative element to the artwork.
Older students were encouraged to incorporate the colors of a flag of a country in which the animal lives. While designing the scales, they were also asked questions that researchers face every day when trying to conserve these species. For example: How would you talk to a farmer who has previously poached pangolin so that he has enough money to feed his family?
We want each banner to both educate those who view it, but also be personal to the place and the people who produced it. For this, we added another dimension and asked students to think of a landmark in their hometown or country and to place their pangolin there. Each student had a fact about the animal and was given 10 minutes of free writing to produce a short story incorporating the landmark and the fact—with some wonderful results. In fact, Carter Ries of OMG in recognition of World Wildlife Day will present the banner produced by the Hewitt School in New York at the UN.
We hope the production of pangolin banners will be done in schools and zoos across the world, with the banners being displayed in pangolin range country airports where high foot-traffic will ensure the message can be spread widely. The OMG kids are also speaking with the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. State Department, and even Nat Geo’s HQ about placing some of the banners from around the world on display.
This project is a collaboration between Olivia and Carter Ries from One More Generation, Artists and Biologists Unite for Nature, Jason Derry from Oakenday Press and myself, Louise Fletcher, from the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group.
If you would like to get your school or local community organization involved in the Pangolin Awareness Art Campaign, please send us an email at info@OneMoreGeneration.org and we will gladly help you out. Pangolins are cool and with your help, we can make a difference. If you would like to learn more about what you can do to save pangolins and to see cool videos, visit the pangolin page on our website.
That is all for this month’s article, stay tuned next month as we introduce you to our friends at City Compost.
Olivia Ries is our National Geographic Society Youth Empowerment writer. Together with her brother, Carter, she hopes to inspire others to realize that “Anybody can make a difference… if they can, you can too.” Make sure to check out their TEDxYouth presentation along with their website at OneMoreGeneration.org and also ‘LIKE’ their FaceBook page as well