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Food for thought

The case against pangolin farming

Pangolin in wire cage

Pangolin farming is not a viable conservation solution. Director, Thai Van Nguyen explains why.

There has been increasing pressure from Chinese pharmaceutical companies to allow pangolin farming in habitat states in Asia and Africa.

SVW was invited to lead discussion on breeding pangolins for commercial purposes with the Vietnamese government and other pangolin range states at the Range State Meeting, June 2015 in Da Nang. We also advised key government officials individually. In 2016, as a vice chair of IUCN Pangolin specialist group we led on a submission (signed by 52 other organisations) to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre and Uganda Wildlife Authority opposing a proposal from Chinese pharmaceutical company, Asia-Africa Pangolin Breeding Research Centre Limited to commercially breed pangolins in Uganda. The proposal was denied.

We do not support pangolin farming. There are many lessons to be learnt from the farming of other wildlife species which is very different to highly controlled non-commercial breeding that supports the conservation of wild populations. Farming pangolins would create more problems for pangolin conservation. It would:

– increase hunting pangolins as source animals for farms

– increase demand for pangolins by creating a legal market

– wild pangolin products become ‘premium’ and in demand

– add further challenges in law enforcement because identification between the wild pangolins and farmed pangolins would be impossible to regulate.

It would not be financially viable for the following reasons:
– due to lack understanding of wild ecology pangolins have a high mortality rate in captivity

– low fecundity: 1 baby per litter and gestation is over 6 months

A volunteer traveled 4000 km to help pangolins: Afterthought

Dung - the Volunteer

One week in CPNP with SVW staff taught me that everyone of us has to take action to protect wild animals, even in a small way before it’s too late. I am a young Vietnamese with my friends, other volunteers, committed to raising my voice to protect Vietnamese wonderful nature and animals!

My idol is Jean Jacques Rousseau , a philosopher, who says: “The person who has lived the most is not the one with the most years but the one with the richest experiences”. Thanks to his inspiration, I always want to take part in as many as social activities that I can, so that I have more opportunities to experience myself. Becoming one of the 114 volunteers for the project “Research and Assess the Reality of Pangolin Trade and Consumption in Vietnam” conducted by Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW) and Humane Society International (HSI) is a great chance for me to do that.

To become a volunteer, all of us were trained by SVW staff to be able to interview and find suitable areas across Vietnam to conduct the social surveys. After that, during our summer vacation, our team travelled in both city and countryside to meet and interview local people. In some first days, we found it so hard to persuade them to help us because people worried that they and their families will be in trouble if helping us even we already provided them all the document that prove we are SVW’s volunteers and their personal information will be kept safely. Another difficulty that have challenged us is the weather and the terrain of the interviewed areas, which all take us more time to finish the interview process. However, after interviewing many people, we found that we have to keep meeting people who misunderstood about pangolins to provide them the exact information about this incredible animal.

Time flew and the last interview was conducted, announcing that it’s time to say goodbye everyone and the new semester starts at school. We all remember the happy time we have together, sharing the same mission — to protect pangolins!

My love of pangolins was bigger during the summer. I also wanted to help out the SVW staff so I decided to travel from Can Tho city to Cuc Phuong Nationa Park (CPNP), Ninh Binh to input data for a week. A week working with SVW staff was so wonderful. Besides working in the office, I was shown around the rehabilitation centre to take care of the animals in the nighttime. I watched by my own eyes the pangolin mum and pup hang around to looking for food, Mr.B the binturong climb in high branches and jump from trees to trees, from which I understand the hard work that SVW is doing at CPCP.

Australian joins Save Vietnam’s Wildlife to fight for pangolins

Heidi

Heidi has been with SVW since February, 2015, her position supported by The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust in the UK. She has been working within the animal welfare and conservation fields for over 15 years, the last 4 based in Asia with animals rescued from the wildlife trade.

I have held the post of Technical Advisor to Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW) since early 2015. I have been working with wildlife for over 15 years, the last 4 here in Asia, however it wasn’t until my move to Vietnam that I met the pangolin; a truly enchanting species, but one which is in dire need of our help.

Each pangolin has his or her own personality; some are bold and inquisitive, bravely standing up on their hind legs to investigate what I might be doing; others are shy and retiring, preferring to remain curled in their trademark nautilus shape, blackcurrant eyes peeking out at the world. They are truly unique within the mammalian kingdom – covered in scales which, when curled, form the perfect defence against large predators, but leave them vulnerable to unscrupulous poachers who can simply scoop them up and throw them into a bag.

To understand the magnitude of the international trade in pangolins is overwhelming; this is not a problem confined to Asia, but one that involves the movement of animals across the oceans from the African continent. Both species of pangolin in Vietnam, the Chinese and the Sunda, are critically endangered, their numbers plummeting because of insatiable demand. So to meet senseless, human greed African pangolin species are being trafficked to Asia. Thousands upon thousands of pangolins find themselves trapped in the wildlife trade to satiate the demand for their scales, used in traditional medicine, as well as their flesh, which is considered a luxury dining experience. Within science, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest pangolin scales are effective in curing disease – in fact pangolin scales are made of the same material as our fingernails, keratin. It truly is a double tragedy – not only are pangolin being poached at a truly alarming rate and face extinction, but patients in China and Vietnam are being treated with a false-remedy.

It is heart breaking to see pangolins when they are first confiscated from the wildlife trade. These gentle animals are trafficked in the most shocking conditions: restrained in tight nylon nets for over a week at a time; unable to move and often with serious wounds from snares; covered in their own urine and feces, and without access to food or water and on occasion with stomachs pumped full of limestone powder to make them heavier at sale. It sometimes take months and months of careful care to rehabilitate sick and injured pangolins, and sadly some never recover from their wounds.

Even though the pangolin is recognized as the most wildly trafficked mammal on the planet, eclipsing the number of tigers, elephants, and rhinos in the trade, so many people have not ever heard of them. The situation is so serious within Vietnam, that there are now only pockets of pangolins found dotted throughout the country. They might not have the same star-appeal of Earths charismatic species like the big cats or bears, however pangolins also deserve our commitment; they deserve our protection. If we let the pangolin slip to extinction, then who else are we prepared to say goodbye to forever? The mountain gorilla? The Amur leopard? The only solution is a multifaceted strategy; we need to strengthen law enforcement, raise public awareness, incite behavioral change in pangolin consumers, and encourage the next generation to take pride in and protect the pangolin. You can help the pangolin – visit Save Vietnam’s Wildlife on Facebook to find out more.

Wildlife needs help from all of us, not only from conservationists

Release a Pangolin

Each animal and each species has its own distinctive character and unique story of how she/he comes to the rehabilitation centre. And all of them play important roles in the ecosystem. To maintain its balance and make human life sustainable, we must stop destroy wildlife and its habitat and start protecting them.

I have been working for Cuc Phuong National Park for 16 years and for ten years I have been Program Manager for Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP) working with a passion to help my country conserve its many important species and habitats.

CPCP is committed to securing a future for wild populations of threatened carnivores and pangolins in Vietnam. We are dedicated to increasing the understanding of and respect for these unique species and their habitats and empowering people to take action to conserve them.

While working for CPCP, I have spent time working mainly on species conservation including practical conservation actions such as awareness programs, field surveys, training for forest rangers, environmental police officers, border soldiers and, university students and ex situ conservation. I also work on establishing and managing priority conservation breeding programs for globally-threatened species of carnivores and pangolins.

As a Vietnamese, I understand that the country has so much incredible fauna and flora that need to be protected. Working as a conservationist, I have a great opportunity to research animal behaviors and their risks. Each animal and each species has its own distinctive character and unique story of how she/he comes to the rehabilitation centre. And all of them play important roles in the ecosystem. To maintain its balance and make human life sustainable, we must stop destroy wildlife and its habitat and start protecting them.

I have been working with many animal species and the one make a deep impression on me is the Owston’s civet, the globally threatened species, which is listed as “vulnerable” in the IUCN status list. They are native in Vietnam and were easily found in the past. However, nowadays they are hunted for their meat for restaurants and fur for fashion purposes. To save this species, we are carrying out the breeding program at Cuc Phuong National Park and we exchange the animals around the world. Thanks to these programs, more than 50 have been born and we expect that the animals from our breeding programs will be released in to the wild once protected areas in Vietnam is secured from illegal activities.

We can easily see that wild animals need help from all of us, not only from conservationists. The demand for products made from wild animals is so huge. If people don’t stop eating them, wildlife’s future will be hard to be secured.