HANOI (July 29, 2016) — Celebrities and leaders from across Vietnam are speaking out to save pangolins, the world’s most-trafficked mammals, with the launch of a new WildAid campaign to be broadcast throughout the nation.
Native to Asia and Africa, pangolins are small insectivores that are unique among mammals for their large, overlapping scales made of keratin — the same protein found in human hair and fingernails. Consumer demand for pangolin scales (used in Traditional Chinese Medicine) as well as pangolin meat have led to rampant poaching to meet consumer demand in China and Vietnam.
Using WildAid’s proven strategies to reduce consumer demand for shark fin, elephant ivory and rhino horn, the new campaign features a coalition of celebrities, government representatives, diplomats, business leaders and media partners who speak out against the pangolin trade and urge consumers not to buy pangolin products.
“This is a global problem requiring a global solution,” said John Baker, Managing Director of WildAid. “We must reduce consumption of pangolin products and restrict the illegal trade. In some cases, we need to update the laws and strengthen enforcement. And we also ask the public for their help in the campaign to reduce consumption and trade in pangolins.”
A WildAid/CHANGE consumer survey in December found that while less than 10% of Vietnamese believe pangolins have medicinal properties, 64% said they have heard of such properties “but do not know if [they are] true.”
Created in partnership with the Vietnamese nonprofit organization CHANGE, the “Happy as a Pangolin” campaign kicked off Friday at a news conference in Hanoi with the debut of three public service announcements starring Vietnamese-American actress Maggie Q, Miss Universe Vietnam 2015 Pham Huong and comedian Tran Thanh (see below). Numerous television channels, radio networks, newspapers, magazines and public communication agencies have pledged their support for free broadcast and placement of the messages across major channels, video screens at airports, hospitals, shopping malls and apartment buildings.
“I am saddened that there is a significant portion of the Vietnamese population that purposely eat and use the scales of an adorable, harmless and shy animal like the pangolin,” said Tran Thanh. “It would be absolutely terrible if pangolins became extinct, a very real possibility at this point since they can only give birth to one baby each pregnancy. We need to take serious measures to protect the species immediately. Time is no longer on our side.”
In China, WildAid and The Nature Conservancy-China launched a pangolin campaign earlier this year starring model and actress Angelababy — one of China’s biggest celebrities and a star in the 2016 summer blockbuster Independence Day: Resurgence. The campaign features PSAs and billboards with the message of protecting pangolins by saying no to pangolin products. A live broadcast of the launch event was carried on popular Chinese online platforms Meipai, NetEase and Panda TV.
Parties to the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will consider proposals to ban international trade in pangolins at a September 2016 summit in South Africa.