Can Relevance Save a Species?

I have fallen in love with the bizarre underdog of the animal kingdom. And their situation is grim. There is a good chance they will be consumed to extinction. An animal that has been on Earth for 80 million years could be gone forever because of people; people who like to eat them and use them as medicine.

They could cease to exist before most of the world even knows what they are.

Meet the pangolin.

Photo credit: Darren Pietersen

Pangolins are gentle, nocturnal mammals that roll up into a ball when frightened. Harmless to people, they rely on a strict diet of insects. There are eight species of pangolin – four in Asia and four in Africa – that range in size from a house cat to a badger.

The little-known pangolin has become the world’s most trafficked wild mammal. East Asian cultures have long used pangolin scales as an ingredient in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. In addition, pangolins are poached for their meat, which is considered a luxury food in many countries. New research revealed that up to 2.7 million pangolins are killed each year from central African nations alone. One record-breaking seizure, by Hong Kong officials last June, consisted of 4.4 tons of pangolin scales. The shipment originated from Cameroon and we estimate it contained up to 6,600 pangolins.

I’ve committed myself to pangolin conservation – a line of work that is in a perpetual state of doom and gloom. I’ve been working on pangolins for ten years along with my pangolin partner, Keri Parker. While tiger and rhino conservation was in the global spotlight, pangolins were quietly slipping away. So, we started Save Pangolins to fight the pangolin crisis. But it’s hard to keep hope.

Photo credit: Save Vietnam’s Wildlife

Then, about a year ago, I met Golin.

They approached me with the bold concept of using Relevance to try to save a species. Their team has brought an energy and brightness that is infectious and hopeful.

We conservationists are so deep in crisis mode that our messages may come across sour and hard to swallow. Sometimes, we fail at engaging people in our cause. Golin’s culture is “courageously happy” and that is how we are approaching the pangolin issue together.

If we can help more people discover how wonderful pangolins are – if we can help to make them relevant to the world – then we may be able to change their fate…for the better. In order to save pangolins, we need to do something big and bold that matches the scale of the problem. Golin and Save Pangolins are working on a fresh approach to do just that.

Golin staff have already raised about $28,000 for pangolins and 19 Golin team members climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last week to build momentum and awareness for our beloved underdog. And this is just the beginning.

Big things are coming in our effort to save the pangolin. And we’ll keep you informed every step of the way. If you are meeting the pangolin for the first time, I hope you too will fall in love and join us in our campaign to save pangolins from extinction.

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