In Suzi’s recently published photo story in BBC Wildlife, she was able to tell the story of an endangered creature little known in the Western world but prized and coveted elsewhere. Pangolins are mammals native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa, and large scales made of keratin – similar in substance to fingernails and talons – characterize the pangolin’s unusual appearance. These scales, used in Chinese medicine, have made the pangolin the most trafficked animal on Earth.
While working in Vietnam, Suzi had the opportunity to meet one of the foremost champions for pangolin conservation. Nguyen Van Thai is now the Executive Director of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, and first encountered pangolins while out hunting as a child in a rural village in Vietnam. When he pulled a mother and baby pangolin out of a hole, he felt great empathy for the small creature and over time began to advocate for its protection. Thai learned as much as he could about the animal and went on to run the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Programme, which has been rescuing, rehabilitating, and then releasing pangolin back into the forests of Vietnam since 2006. The organization is now building a new education center that will be open to the public next year.
Suzi also worked at the Taipei Zoo, one of the only zoos in the world that has been able to successfully breed pangolins. The program was started with pangolins rescued from poachers.
With more public awareness and education, Suzi and Thai hope that pangolin poaching will someday come to an end and we will be able to protect this amazing creature.