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A pangolin is the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. With figures of over 1 million pangolins killed in the last 10 years, averaging out as 288 pangolins killed every day. That equates to 1 every 5 minutes.

They are poached endlessly for national and international trade both within and between Africa and Asia, as well as appearing in even European countries. Why are they killed? For meat that is considered a delicacy and for cultural medicines that have absolutely no scientific proof of actually having any healing benefits. They suffer so much. But the biggest threat to this species is the lack of awareness; the lack of change. And because not enough action is being taken to save the species, they are on the road to extinction.

The poaching of pangolins has gone unnoticed for so long because no one really knew about them and it is often said that these animals may become extinct before we have even heard of them. From my personal experience, more young people have heard of them than adults, many I have spoken to being shocked that this happens to what they consider is “actually a kind of cute animal”. We need to get a driving force within this people to stop giving pangolins sympathy and start to take action against their plight.

The only way to save the pangolins is to protect them. They are listed on CITES Appendix II since September 2016 meaning that they are a protected species and trading of them can have severe punishments. Although this regulation is in place, it has not prevented or reduced the trade in any way. Recently a cooking show was broadcast on national Chinese television showing viewers how to cook pangolin soup. A commercial pangolin farm was shown on television. These are not images of conservation but instead appealing to consumers, suggesting it is okay for people in China to continue their consumption of pangolins.

There are groups and organisations that work tirelessly to protect the pangolin. They work hard to conserve and protect pangolins they find from seizures. They are trying to educate children as a stepping stone, and desperately to educate locals to further awareness and lead to action. Breeding programmes and conservation efforts are wasted without legislation, and the organisations try to place themselves within so as to improve and amend wildlife laws. This would strengthen the CITES protection afforded to pangolin as to see actual punishments enforced would reduce the poaching of pangolins. Government pressure is key as well as local education. These organisations understand that.

For the pangolin species to be saved before it is too late, everyone needs to understand that these animals exist and they need saving. Action needs to be taken, the organisations need support, there needs to be pressure and a stigma around saving this animal which has remarkably human like and gentle qualities. Poachers are evolving their techniques all the time, after too many seizures in Asia occurred, they are beginning to use small boats to enter small ports rather than using the big freezer-vans that started to become associated with the trade.

Photography is a powerful art form, but the public are bombarded with images showing horrific crimes that animals daily and this creates a thick mask illuminating empathy between the subject and the viewer. To create the level of awareness that the pangolin needs in order to survive, I decided something more than just a photograph is needed.

A 3D sculpture gives an opportunity to fully immerse the viewer in their surroundings. I want them to become one with the pangolins and bear witness to what happens to a pangolin every 5 minutes. In order to make a change, we first need to make an impact. I want to show the brutality these creatures suffer at the hands of humans, to supplement unnecessary human consumption. I want it to be hard-hitting and so that viewers can see a 3D version of what happens to pangolins, not just a distant picture that is easy to bypass.

The final aim of my project is to create 288 individual pangolin sculptures. This will show the numbers that are daily being illegally traded and trafficked across Africa and Asia. 288 Pangolins suffering day after day after day. If a person is in a room with 288 pangolins, they would be surrounded. It is not possible for them to escape or look-over the problem because everywhere they look there would be a dead pangolin. This is what needs to be done to open people’s eyes to the problem and hopefully trigger a desire in them to take action.

I aim to create this art instillation as well as a series of merchandise that can be sold for a number of charities. I will also create a series of informative leaflets, posters, badges and stickers that I will use to spread the work of notable charities and raise awareness for pangolin organisations.