- John Sutter: Anti-poaching PSA airs in Vietnam because of CNN readers
- Readers donated more than $20,000 for pangolin conservation
Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and creator of CNN's Change the List project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN)Pat yourselves on the back, readers!
The pangolin is now a little safer because of you.
Last year, after I wrote about the illegal trade in these artichoke-shaped, scale-covered mammals, CNN Digital readers donated more than $20,000 toward the shooting and production of an anti-pangolin-poaching public service announcement (say that three times fast ... ) and media campaign.
The PSA is now airing in Vietnam, which is a hub of the illegal trade.
Hosted by a Vietnamese newscaster, the advertisement is expected to be seen on 60 national and provincial television channels in the country, and is airing on at least 20 stations as of this week, according to Education for Nature Vietnam, a environmental non-profit that commissioned the PSA.
"Our native species, the pangolin, is being threatened by hunters and traders who defy the law to profit from nature, regardless of the cost to Vietnam's environment," the newscaster, Hoai Anh, who was described to me as "the female Anderson Cooper of Vietnam," says in the clip.
She continues: "If you buy pangolin scales or eat pangolin meat in restaurants, you are directly supporting these criminal networks."
The PSA ends with a call to action, asking viewers to call a hotline to report illegal wildlife crime. Pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine and were openly available in markets when I visited Vietnam in February 2014. Pangolin meat, a delicacy, was easy to spot on restaurant menus in Hanoi.
In an effort to curb demand, Education for Nature Vietnam also has posted banners in markets telling people that buying and selling pangolin scales is illegal and that the scales are "not a magic medicine," said Doug Hendrie, the group's chief technical adviser.
"We've always focused on tigers rhinos and bears, and, now, organizationally we're really prioritizing pangolins, which is great," said Hendrie.
Radio spots are in the works, as well.
All of this was funded by the CNN reader donations, he said.
The pangolin -- a scale-covered mammal that resembles an armadillo and rolls up into a ball when it's threatened -- is thought by conservationists to be the most trafficked mammal in the world. I reported on this little-known creature last year after CNN Digital readers voted for me to cover illegal wildlife trafficking as part of my Change the List project. The pangolin's celebrity has been increasing, as of late. Rovio, the maker of Angry Birds, featured them in a mobile game. And Prince William helped raise awareness about their plight in a November YouTube video.
"The humble pangolin, a scaly anteater, is one of the most endangered animals because of poaching," the prince said. "The pangolin runs the risk of going extinct before most people have even heard of him."
Enforcement efforts also give cause for hope.
This month, police in Zimbabwe arrested five pangolin poachers, according to WildAid. And in June, two tons of pangolin scales were seized in Hong Kong, according to that non-profit group.
If the pangolin is saved, it will be in part thanks to those efforts -- and yours.
For that I'm incredibly, genuinely, awesomely thankful.
So here's another heartfelt thanks to those of you who contributed to Education for Nature Vietnam's anti-poaching PSA -- and who took time to read and care about this bizarre-but-important little animal.
I hope this public service announcement opens minds, and that similar work is soon be taken up in China, which is researchers say is another large market for pangolin products.