Visitors to CNN's Facebook page named this pangolin Sandshrew.
JM for CNN
Visitors to CNN's Facebook page named this pangolin Sandshrew.

Story highlights

CNN readers vote on the name "Sandshrew" for a pangolin in Vietnam

Sandshrew the pangolin is missing; researchers are searching for him

Sandshrew is the name of a Pokemon character

John Sutter asks readers to try to get the company involved in 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 Google+. E-mail him at The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

Bad news, guys: The pangolin we adopted is missing.

You may recall a vote I held online recently – asking readers to suggest new names for pangolin P26, who was released into a national park in Vietnam in March. The names you suggested were lovely: Pemalu, which is Indonesian for “shy”; Bao, which is Vietnamese for “protection.” And – Sandshrew, a scale-covered Pokemon character that even I’ll admit does bear a striking resemblance to a real-life panoglin.

Of course, since you’re the Internet, you voted up Sandshrew.

So that’s P26’s new name.

John D. Sutter
Edythe McNamee/CNN
John D. Sutter

And now Sandshrew is missing.

I’m not drawing any correlation between the two. Obviously. Of course not …

Let me back up in case you haven’t been following this story: Pangolins are thought to be the most trafficked mammals in the world. They’re traded illegally and by the ton for their scales, which are used in traditional medicine and for their meat, which is a delicacy in Vietnam and China. I recently spent some time investigating the pangolin trade in Southeast Asia as part of CNN’s Change the List project. One pangolin I met was named P26 – and had been seized from the illegal trade and taken to the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program in Vietnam. He recently was released into Cat Tien National Park. I thought it would be fun for CNN’s audience to adopt and rename the pangolin, and the researchers who care for him kindly agreed.

Turns out, the researchers kind of like the name Sandshrew.

“I guess it is kinda cute(ish),” one wrote in an e-mail.

“Well, anything is better than P26 right?!”

And they think it might help with his rescue.

In a Wednesday blog post, Louise Fletcher, from the conservation program, wrote that P26’s (sorry, Sandshrew’s) radio tracking device had partially fallen off his tail. This happens quite a lot with this type of pangolin, she told me. The transmitting devices are fairly clunky, and they’re screwed into a scale that’s made of fingernail material.

Now, she is scouring the forest trying to find him. She’s set up “camera traps” that might snap a photo of the nocturnal animal if he’s roaming around at night, looking for ants. And she’s spending some time just wandering the park at night hoping to see him.

No luck so far.

“Maybe if the voting by CNN readers is complete on deciding P26′s new name, I can see if whispering it as we walk through the forest on Thursday night will be successful in coaxing him into view!” she wrote.

Maybe! I hope so. I sent her an e-mail telling her the new name for P26 is Sandshrew. I’m holding out hope that Fletcher will find him by whispering “Saaaandshrewwwww” into the forest of Vietnam. I kind of love imagining that scene, and wish her luck.

If you want to follow her progress, and Sandshrew’s, check out her blog.

And thanks to everyone who voted.

One more favor to ask: Maybe the fact that there’s a real-life endangered creature named after a video game character means Nintendo and Pokemon will start supporting pangolin conservation? Maybe someone can suggest that by starting a petition? So far, more than 4,000 people have signed a reader’s petition asking for Disney to put a pangolin in a movie.

Maybe there’s a similarly creative ask for Pokemon?

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