Home News News New AI campaign exposes how wildlife crime is driving extinction of one of the world’s most unique mammals.

New AI campaign exposes how wildlife crime is driving extinction of one of the world’s most unique mammals.

Plight of pangolins revealed as AI shows poaching incident and wet market fate from their perspective.

The dire consequences facing one of the most elusive, rarest, and least understood mammals in the world, have been revealed through an innovative new AI campaign launched by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF).

The ‘Through Their Eyes’ campaign uniquely captures the perspective of a pangolin as it is caught by poachers, trafficked, and left to its fate in a wet market – where live animals are kept in inhumane conditions before being dispatched or sold.

Prized for their scales (made of keratin – like human fingernails) in traditional medicine practices across Asia, their meat has also become a delicacy signifying status in the Middle East.

Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked wild mammal. An estimated one million pangolins have been taken from the wild in the past decade, which amounts to approximately 300 pangolins poached every day. Experts warn that pangolins could be wiped out altogether within the next ten years if urgent conservation actions are not taken.

“It is currently estimated that a pangolin is killed every five minutes, every day. I have had the privilege of seeing pangolins in the wild and it is a memory that I cherish – but we cannot stand by and let them become just that. Pangolins need protection on a global scale, which is why DSWF isn’t just funding and supporting projects on the frontline, but also actively influencing international policy and law to safeguard their future”.

Georgina Lamb, CEO, DSWF

Pangolins cannot be feasibly raised or kept in captivity, with few successes recorded to date. This means all pangolins are sourced through the illegal global wildlife trade. As Asian species have been depleted well beyond being able to cater for demand, African species are now being targeted – including the rarely sighted giant pangolin.

In Africa, pangolins face further threats. Being relatively defenceless and easy to catch, they are targeted to supply the prolific bushmeat trade, as well as now supplying the demand to the Asian market. And another, literally quite shocking barrier stands in their way too.

Unfortunately, in what is a crucial but not uncommon intervention, DSWF and its local partners successfully rescued two giant pangolins from a potentially fatal encounter with an electric fence in Kenya.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation | Giant Pangolin in electric fence

Electric fences, intended to protect crops and livestock, can be deadly for pangolins. Their instinct to curl into a ball when threatened results in repeated shocks that can be fatal. Tragically, four other giant pangolins were not as fortunate and perished after becoming entangled in an electric fence.

“Safeguarding the remaining Giant Ground Pangolin in a 170000 HA area comes with many challenges. But with DSWF support and funding, we have engaged over one hundred and ten landowners, protected 1300 HA of forest habitat and removed critical threats including 32 km of electric fencing. We work with rangers to protect the Giant Ground Pangolin and habitat on which they depend, build community governance systems and develop livelihoods so that people that live alongside Pangolin can prosper from conservation solutions. This is vital work and essential to ensuring the survival of this population of Giant Ground Pangolin.”

Dr Claire Okell, The Pangolin Project, Kenya

Additionally, scales from three different sites were discovered near electric fences, indicating that three more animals had been killed and subsequently had their scales removed and either sold or used.

The population in the area is estimated at 30 individuals, suggesting that giant pangolins could disappear from the area in fewer than five years if the current trend continues.

Landowners living alongside wildlife often use electric fences to protect their livelihoods. Since 2023, DSWF has been providing educational support and promoting land use practices that benefit both people and wildlife. 

As a result of these actions, Jackson, a local farmer, turned off the lower lines of his electric fence after learning about the specific threats these fences pose to pangolins. This small yet significant change has helped reduce the danger to pangolins while still protecting his crops and livestock.

The ongoing work of DSWF, brought to life by the ‘Through the Eyes Of’ campaign shows why reducing threats to pangolins and safeguarding their future is more important than ever, at both local and international level.

You can find out more about the campaign here.

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