BY CHRISTINA VALLIANOS – WILDAID PANGOLIN CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR
Pangolins are small mammals sometimes referred to as “scaly anteaters” for their defining physical trait: large, overlapping scales composed of keratin, the same protein that makes up human fingernails as well as rhino horns. When threatened, pangolins curl up into a tight ball, a defensive posture that can protect them from predators — even lions.
Sadly this technique doesn’t work on human predators. As a result, pangolins are considered to be the most heavily trafficked mammals on the planet. Consumer demand in Asia for pangolin scales (used in traditional medicine) and pangolin meat has caused tens of thousands of these animals to be poached every year. Criminal networks profiting from the ivory and rhino horn trades are likely involved in the pangolin trade as well, given recent seized shipments of ivory that have also contained pangolin scales.
That’s why WildAid and The Nature Conservancy-China have teamed up with model and actress Angelababy — one of China’s biggest celebrities and a star in the upcoming summer blockbuster Independence Day: Resurgence — to create a new pangolin media campaign for distribution throughout mainland China. Launched today in Beijing, 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.
As Vogue reports, Angelababy’s social media influence in China “rivals that of the Kardashian/Jenner/Hadids,” with over 60 million followers on Weibo (China’s Twitter-like social media network) and 4.2 million followers on Instagram. Given how powerful younger generations can be in persuading their elders against buying wildlife products, we are thrilled that Angelababy will be sharing her love for pangolins with legions of social media followers.
Our goals in this new campaign are to raise awareness of the pangolin poaching crisis in China and Vietnam, to support greater international protection for pangolins, and to stop illegal trade. In September, officials with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will convene in South Africa to consider adopting stronger pangolin protections. Sign the petition to support this measure via our friends at TakePart, IFAW, the Center for Biological Diversity and Born Free USA.
Special thanks to The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the UK Government through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund (IWT) for their generous support of WildAid’s pangolin campaign.
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WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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