As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded earlier this year, news of the wildlife trade dominated China’s news outlets and the pangolin emerged as the symbol for the call to end wildlife consumption. China’s government was quick to respond to this movement, as it upgraded pangolins to the highest level of protection in June. The upgrade is expected to improve conservation effectiveness in China with steeper sentencing for related offenses and a clear message to the public that these animals are on the verge of extinction and thus, violations will not be tolerated.
On the heels of this news, WildAid and its partners, the China Wildlife Conservation Association and the Pangolin Crisis Fund, launched a new series of outdoor advertisements to keep pangolins in the spotlight. These ads reinforce the message that pangolins should be protected and that consumption of their meat and products is illegal. The outdoor billboard installments employ a comic-style artwork popular on Chinese social media to tell more of a complete story than traditional advertisements. The campaign launched in nine major cities with over 220 ads placed, garnering over 70 million views in the first two weeks. Key placements include China’s political and economic centers of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong province, along with other locations that have higher rates of pangolin consumption such as Guangxi, Zhejiang, Fujian, and Chongqing.
A survey of metro passengers was conducted in August 2020 at Haizhu Square station, one of the many in Guangzhou, Guangdong that is currently housing our comic panels. Approximately 80% of respondents had noticed the ads and 62% of those said the ads helped inform them that pangolins are on the verge of extinction; only 24% had previously known pangolins were endangered. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would help educate others about pangolins, with 40% saying they would become “pangolin protectors” in the future.
Below are two examples from the series that have been deployed in both long continuous panels in subway tunnels and corridors, as well as individual panels in prominent placements and on social media:
Strictly combat illegal wildlife trade
Tiger: How are you lately?
Pangolin: Great! Now they can’t touch me either!
Subtext: (based off a Chinese saying “like touching a tiger’s bum” meaning something is impossible to achieve.) Pangolins are now a national level I protected species. Any illegal trade, smuggling, or consumption of pangolins or their products will be met with the strictest punishment. Offenders can receive up to ten years in prison and confiscation of assets.
Pangolins are a national level I protected species
Pangolin: Guess what we have in common?
Panda: We both curl into a ball?
Pangolin: We’re both level I protected species!
Subtext: Panda: Hope you can shake off “endangered” status soon (play on the well-known Chinese word for “poverty alleviation” replacing poverty with endangered.) In order to protect increasingly endangered pangolins, they have now been upgraded to the highest level of protection. Any illegal trade, smuggling, or consumption of pangolins or their products will receive the most strict punishment.
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WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. 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 $218 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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