Happy World Pangolin Day!

This rolly polly mammal with scales is also the world's most trafficked animal.

Louise (/u/Adelina84) worked with the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program in Vietnam for eighteen months radio tracking rehabilitated Sunda Pangolins.

I (Jason) teach and research environmental and science communication. My dissertation is on childhood agency regarding climate change.

Together we recently collaborated on a children's book to teach children about this lesser known critter in an ecologically sound, but fun and playful way. We're donating 30% of profits from the sales to pangolin conservation.

Feel free to ask us anything! About pangolins, science communication, our favorite teas, whatever!


Edit: Louise is off to do pangolin things but told me she'll be checking in throughout the day.

Edit2: I am also off to have lunch and work on a few things, but will also be checking in throughout the day. It's been great so far!

Edit3: A lot of people are asking what they can do to help. In addition to our educational book linked above, I wanted to share the following non-profit orgs Louise recommended in a comment below. They perform pangolin rescue, conservation, and education: Save Vietnam's Wildlife and Tikki Hywood Trust.

Edit4: Louise asked me to add that she's flying back to the UK now (much of this AMA was from the airport!) but that she'll answer a few more questions when she lands.

Edit5: Thanks everyone for the questions! This was a lot of fun. We are happy to see such interest in pangolins and our work!

Comments: 691 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

owlicksbee835 karma

What makes it the most trafficked animal? Why is it so sought after?

oakenday1377 karma

Louise could probably answer this more thoroughly, but as this BBC article outlines pangolins are most valued for their meat and use in traditional Chinese medicine.

They are also extremely easy to catch, since the pangolin's defense mechanism is to stop moving and curl into a ball. Something that works great against tigers (their scales are nearly impenetrable to a tiger's teeth) but works terribly when it's just some poachers with cloth bags reaching down to pick them up.

lastspartacus54 karma

i am shocked to the point of incredulity that those little things can survive a tiger's jaws.

Also I have to admit now I'm a little curious how they taste. I will resist though!

oakenday69 karma

The tiger is actually a core part of the plot of our story. It's the first jungle creature the pangolin protagonist Nallie ends up meeting.

I guess when you evolve alongside tigers you end up evolving tiger-resistant defense mechanisms!

Prof_Acorn280 karma

Would you rather fight 1 horse sized pangolin or 100 pangolin sized horses?

oakenday905 karma

A horse sized pangolin sounds like a Dark Souls boss. Guess I should git gud.

wheresthemilkdad90 karma

How did you guys get into researching about pangolins? I'm assuming you both started out as biology students but what was the push towards pangolin research because it sounds like such an interesting type of research

oakenday165 karma

I've always been torn between science, art, writing, and philosophy, so I changed majors frequently. I started out wanting to design video games, then wanted to build robots, study dinosaurs, and through a very long journey ended up with a BA in English of all things, lol. But I still wanted to do something with science so I ended up getting a MA in Environmental Education and studied how children understand and are influenced by media regarding elephants, and a few other animals.

It was then that I discovered I could research and study science communication more broadly. Am currently ABD in a PhD in Communication Studies focused on environmental and science communication and teach full time. The question of science education, nature education, social movements around these, and so forth is particularly fascinating to me.

I met Louise through a mutual colleague who I had met at /r/babyelephantgifs regarding an elephant conservation kid's book. Through my research on media influences on children (and interests in art and writing) I started a children's book company to partner with scientists in teaching science literacy in playful ways.

Looking at the pangolin books out there, most don't represent the species very well at all, putting them into human-like romantic encounters (even the recent Google doodle did this), but the more ecological books read like textbooks. We wanted something playful and fun that represented the species accurately.

Louise has done A LOT more with pangolins than I have, so I'm excited as well to read her response to your question. She just went on a tour through a few US cities working with elementary school kids about pangolins too!

wheresthemilkdad52 karma

Oh man. That was such a great response. It's so cool how many different studies can just flow into each other to create something unique and beneficial. Really glad to hear that you enjoy what you're doing as well as how you're helping educate about animals such as the pangolin.

oakenday29 karma

Thanks :)

Malkiot17 karma

Haha... This reads like my story. I started physics, then engineering, am now considering English or IT.

Gives me hope that there still are cool things out there that I can do and don't even know about.

oakenday31 karma

Cool! Enjoy the journey :)

That one Sunscreen song that was popular in the early 2000s said something like, "Don't be too worried if you don't know what you want to do with your life. Some of the most interesting 30 year olds don't. Some of the MOST interesting 40 year olds still don't."

I'd just also recommend to complete tasks before moving on to the next one. I used to switch before ever finishing anything and I ended up too broad with nothing concrete enough to leverage for work. Gotta pay the bills in between the adventures, after all.

chriskrichardson15 karma

Professor of Sci Comm, creates books for kids, and just quoted my favourite song. Given this (probably quite likely) combination you can expect an email from me at some point :)

oakenday10 karma

Please do. My contact info is easily found online (on my faculty profile and oakenday contact page).

Zangoma7 karma

Thank you for this, im also a bit of a mindless student, dont know where to go and such, I love the work you guys are doing and want to get into science communication someday also. I live in Africa and I feel theres just so much I could promote in terms of conservation , animals and science etc. Maybe I can do a short book and email it to you someday? will your reddit account still be active?

oakenday6 karma

Maybe I can do a short book and email it to you someday? will your reddit account still be active?

I do log in from time to time, but feel free to submit queries here: http://www.oakenday.org/contact Look forward to seeing your ideas :)

, I love the work you guys are doing and want to get into science communication someday also

Thanks! And good luck. The better we can communicate and educate about conservation issues, I think the better the planet will be. In my opinion most people are kind and caring, and they just aren't aware of many of the issues out there, or much about who these animals are.

Farscape2990 karma

I learned what I do know about pangolins from watching the Wild Kratts episode with my sons.

Have you seen that episode and did you like it?

oakenday109 karma

I've not seen that episode, but I grew up on shows like that. Kratt's Creatures, Bill Nye, Beakman's World, Brainiac, even Fred Penner's Place.

They don't ever tend to show the data collection part of science, nor the staring at SPSS results and writing papers, but they make science fun and interesting.

People care about what they love, and they love what they know, and they like to know what's fascinating. So I think shows, books, curriculums like this are pretty awesome. I'd guess they are a significant influence into why I'm doing the things I'm doing today.

theepzaa60 karma

Is there an alternative to pangolin that can be promoted in the traditional Chinese medicine world, considered equivalent in efficacy, so that the pangolin can be spared?

SoundBearier208 karma

It's keratin. So literally people can just chew their nails. The thing to promote would be education.

Adelina8420 karma

Exactly what we are doing right now. Educating the youth too, they are the ones who can drive the change

absolutelybacon16 karma

Someone get Yao Ming on this, STAT!

oakenday30 karma

Yao Ming is doing some great work on elephants for sure. We (meaning Jason and Oakenday) actually did an elephant conservation book a couple years ago with an elephant research assistant who had worked at Think Elephants International in Thailand. We met at /r/babyelephantgifs of all places - because reddit is awesome.

Here's our babyelephantgifs AMA from then if you're interested

spyronos30 karma

I'm a wildlife student about to graduate this May. This is the sort of thing I've always wanted to do, conservatory public education. How did you get to where you are now in your respective roles?

oakenday22 karma

I outlined my story in this response, but there are numerous ways to get into conservation education.

If you like the research side, thinking about what area or animal you're most interested in and then seeking out graduate programs is likely a good idea. You can also do education and campaigns, but will have a primary focus on research. If I recall correctly from our conversations this is what Louise had done.

If you're more interested on the education side, you could try interning or finding work with an animal sanctuary or zoo or nature center. Those would be great ways to "get your feet wet" and make connections. There are also a few grad programs in environmental ed.

I think the best advice I've ever gotten once you know what you want to do is to look at job postings for those positions, and see what they're looking for, and use that as a guide as to how to market yourself. And if you don't have much relevant on your resume yet, then volunteering or interning is a great way to start getting that experience.

And actually, now that I think about it, this is precisely when a lot of nature centers are hiring for their summer staff. Check around your area - might be able to find a nice summer gig for when you graduate.

rstcp16 karma

Have you read Mary Douglas' Purity and Danger, and are you familiar with the Lele pangolin cult? I'm curious if the pangolin was awarded a similar mystical prominence in Asian societies for the same reasons.

oakenday14 karma

I have not read that, but I'm tagging Louise /u/Adelina84 because I want to know the answer to this too!

theyellowpants14 karma

What animal is the best party animal?

oakenday81 karma

Pandas. Because every party is a pandamonium.

PornoPaul14 karma

With science and genetics getting as advanced as they have, would either of you be interested in bringing back the ancient giant Pangolin Louise mentioned? I ask both from a "holy shit that's cool" standpoint as well as a moral one. Also how likely would it then into a Jurrasic Park scenario?

oakenday36 karma

Life, uh, finds a way.

Senecaraine10 karma

Geez Cumberbatch, it's pronounced penguin.

Lol really though, how often do you have people who are entirely confused about what a pangolin is?

oakenday16 karma

Almost every single person I've talked to about pangolins thinks I just have a strange way of saying penguin, lol.

blond-max8 karma

What's the best named pangolin you've encountered?

oakenday11 karma

Nallie, the protagonist of our book
(/shameless plug) ;-)

But - for some behind the scenes info that I don't think anyone knows. In the writing process, Nallie was originally a male named Nall (from the Irish name Niall, meaning champion). But then Louise informed me that males probably wouldn't seek out their families because they don't really pair bond and males are pretty nomadic and solitary, so in the story "Nall" became "Nallie" and the family became her single pango-pup.

hackel7 karma

Are you releasing this children's book in Vietnam and other places where there is an actual market for these animals? It seems like that is vastly more important, to educate these people.

oakenday8 karma

We're waiting to hear back from a translator actually about commission costs, but it's a very small publishing team. Just me and Louise actually for this entire book project, so things move more slowly. A localized version is definitely in the works though!

That said, here is Louise doing a reading in Malaysia. Here is her doing a reading in North Sumatra.

We're hoping to do more!