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Meet 'Reporter Pangolin,' the Star of a New Campaign to Combat Pangolin Consumption

A new conservation campaign focused on pangolins has harnessed the power of social media to get its message across.

The Vietnam-based environmental NGOs CHANGE and WildAid recently launched an awareness-raising campaign called "Pangolin still endangered" to remind people that, while the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated global news over the last 18 months, these animals continue to be heavily trafficked.

To begin the campaign, the organizations created a program called "Pangolin Not-So-Breaking News," which features an animated, bow tie-wearing character called "Reporter Pangolin" delivering a news report. The pangolin laments the fact that over 200,000 members of its species are poached in the wild in Vietnam every year, though this generates minimal coverage.

He then breaks into a rap verse, noting how rap music is now trending across Vietnamese social media, while the plight of the pangolin is largely ignored.

Video via CHANGE's YouTube page.

"We wanted to have a campaign that summarized the status of the pangolin in the year 2020," Cody Robbie, communications manager at CHANGE, told Saigoneer in an email. "Pangolins were under the spotlight at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a suspected intermediate host. At the time China banned the use of pangolin as an ingredient in traditional medicine. However, news about pangolins has come and gone as nothing happened."

Robbie added that people in Vietnam continue to consume pangolin, while CHANGE and its partners wanted to create something that would help individuals connect with the elusive animal: "Pangolins are shy, so people don't often see them or know what they look like. So we wanted to create a pangolin reporter as a character to not only talk about their own fate and situation, but also give people the opportunity to know what a pangolin looks like."

The campaign is part of broader effort on CHANGE's part to increase awareness of the danger of consuming bushmeat, which remains common in Vietnam and is thought to be one of the potential starting points of the COVID-19 pandemic in China.

"This will be a long-term campaign, with the 'pangolin reporter' reporting wildlife news daily," Robbie added. "We want people to care more about our wildlife, and news about it should be under the spotlight as much as other news. We believe that when people know more, they care more."

The work has also made the leap to TikTok thanks to Quang Đăng, the hugely popular choreographer behind the 'Ghen Cô Vy' handwashing dance that took the internet by storm last year and even appeared on the HBO show Last Week Tonight.

@im.quangdang

Cùng Đăng giúp BTV Tê Tê on top trending chứ không phải đầu bảng sách đỏ với điệu nhảy “Tê Tê vẫn thế" nhé@bantinnguoi #tetevanthe#bantinnguoi

♬ nhạc nền - QUANG ĐĂNG

At the time of writing, Đăng's pangolin video had almost 12,000 likes.

"Đăng has worked with us for many years, and when we had the rap segment, we immediately though: what about pangolins dancing and calling to save themselves?" Robbie shared. "So we sent this to clip to Đăng, and when we met he agreed to work with us. After three days, he had the dance ready, and within a week we had costumes and filmed it."

While it is too early to assess the impact of this work from CHANGE, WildAid and their collaborators, there is little doubt that the reclusive pangolin needs help: they are the most-trafficked type of animal in the world, and shipments of pangolin parts bound for Vietnam from Africa are often intercepted.

Perhaps innovative ideas such as "Reporter Pangolin" can finally turn the tide.

[Top image via Change YT video]