Holy Ground

“There’s something special about it – I can’t explain it, but once you see this magical creature, you’ll know. To be able to follow her, to protect her, help her, is a feeling that cannot be described. It’s like walking on Holy ground.”

Most people you know have never seen a living pangolin. Most people don’t even know what a pangolin is. Also known as ‘the scaly anteater’, pangolins are often confused with reptiles, but is actually the only mammal entirely covered in scales.

While these creatures are elusive and not much is known about them, one thing we do know is that they are currently the most trafficked mammal in the world. More than 1 million pangolins have been poached during the last decade.

After having annihilated almost all Asian species, rogues are now coming for our African pangolins. Not even their elusive nature is able protect them from poachers. When poached, they suffer the most horrific time. They starve, having been ripped from their natural habitat, are abused, shoved, haggled over and terrorised at the hands of their captors. A few lucky ones get saved, those who don’t, meet an unimaginable fate.

Their scales are used for absurd, bogus medicinal purposes that have no scientific backing, their skin for accessories and their meat is seen as a delicacy. The irony? Their scales are made of keratin, the exact same thing our fingernails are made of.

“Everyone who comes into contact with them, everyone who works with them somehow spiritually connect to them. One stands there, spellbound, as if you could watch them for ever.”

What we are concerned about right now is not just the pangolins, but we are facing a much greater disaster. The ecological effects would be astronomical. If we lose the pangolins, we lose the earth’s great gardeners.

It’s clear that the pangolins of Africa are in the middle of a destructive poaching storm. There is no doubt that they are in serious trouble – the signs do not point to a good outcome. They’ve been around for over 80 million years and it looks as if they could vanish in our lifetime, because of the greed of people. But, fortunately there are also people who inspire us and help protect these precious scaly anteaters. The fearless individuals who aid in protecting these wonderful creatures increase our knowledge and help us save them.

Is there hope? The business of conservation must be run by optimists. You have to be optimistic, tenacious, so yes, there is hope! We are optimists.

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