An update, podcasts ... and we're hiring

A new website, a Q&A on podcasts, and more.

Criminal syndicates in Africa and Asia are working together — and competing — to meet the seemingly insatiable demand for pangolins in China and other markets.

Over the past year, more than 40 journalists in 15 countries and territories have conducted a joint investigation on how illegal pangolin trafficking is leading the species to become extinct.

Read our report here, and keep following this newsletter for updates on the trade. We’re planning to cover other environmental issues in Asia and elsewhere. More on this soon, also on this newsletter.


First of all, please take a look at our new website: investigative.earth and let us know what you think.

About a year ago, a group of us, journalists, met in Seoul and discussed ways to finally start working together – compare notes, jointly report and edit. We chose to document the illicit trade in pangolins. The result: The Pangolin Reports. This model worked and resonated, and our efforts ballooned into a size and scope of new reporting that we did not anticipate.

Rainie the Pangolin of R.AGE’s illustrated storybook just happened to be immortalized in a tattoo. (Credit: Ooi, the former illustrator at R.AGE. You can find her work on Instagram.)

So, we’re still working on some follow-up stories. We’re also watching closely the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the illicit wildlife trade across the supply chain and will update you.

But we also want to seize the opportunity and facilitate more environmental reporting. This is why we’re working on setting up a small non-profit that helps journalists report on the environment.

In this newsletter series, we’ll continue to inform you of progress in our work documenting the pangolin trade, and we’d also like to keep you informed of other stories we are pursuing. Going forward, we also want to inform you of new data sources and funding opportunities.

For this purpose, we’re hiring a part-time writer. Here’s the job posting. Kindly share it with anyone who might be interested. We hope to launch this newsletter in April. You’ll be the first to get it. If you have suggestions or ideas, just reply to this email.


Podcasts! The team of Marcy Trent Long at Sustainable Asia released a few more episodes of their The Pangolin Reports series.

Marcy kindly agreed to a quick Q&A with us on her podcasting and her next projects:

What was it like to collaborate with reporters on The Pangolin Reports, what was the best and worst part about it? “Best: Their unique local viewpoints. What was exciting about interviewing all of them was to hear the local perspective of how pangolin trafficking was impacting their country. So not only has their investigation been informative for the protection of pangolins, it has also highlighted the social issues that trafficking brings to their countries. Worst: Making them work until late hours of the night doing recorded diaries!”

What are the other stories you tell on the Sustainable Asia podcast? “We like to start with an interesting phenomenon that is happening in Asia that relates to our planet.  For instance: mining the ocean floor, pangolin trafficking, ocean plastic, overfishing.  Then we take that issue and look at it from the Asia lens: what is the history behind the problem and what are the cultural reasons that might have led to this problem developing? From there, we can investigate and report on the types of solutions that are being employed – and whether those will be enough to cure the problem.”

What do you want to achieve with the podcast? “We tell stories through the voices of the people living in Asia. There are so many environmental challenges in Asia – high population density, lower incomes, bountiful natural resources and lack of regulatory oversight. But to hear solutions that are being generated here in Asia helps stop the finger-pointing and engage in a way forward with solutions.”

Why podcasts? “People are not reading the research reports that are required for long-form investigation – but they are willing to listen or watch documentaries more and more. Research has shown that podcasts ‘transport’ listeners better than movies because we are so close to our listener’s ears, and allow them to use their imagination to hear the story.”

What's next after pangolins? “More ocean plastic!  We are doing a series comparing how countries in Asia deal with the plastic ‘first mile’ – getting a PET bottle from your hand to a recycling centre in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, etc.”

Where can readers find Sustainable Asia? sustainableasia.co, our show notes are on chinadialogue.net.


One more thing, an important one, a plea by one of our colleagues for better, global journalism.

Late last year, the Belgian publication MO* under the leadership of Gie Goris published The Pangolin Reports in Flemish. He just told us that he is leaving the helm of the publication in August, but before doing that, he published this op-ed with his successor.

They write:

Investing in newsrooms with a global outlook and expertise is therefore a must-do for every medium and a societal necessity. It means, investing in professional journalists who have the time to investigate and write, who can experience the complex reality in the field, who are fully critical of the spin and communication strategies of the powers that be, but who also continue to question their own sympathies.

Their article first appeared on MO*.

That’s it from us for today. Let us know what you think about the site.

We hope you and your loved ones are safe. Do take care.


Here are our earlier newsletters: 

IntroductionQ&AChinaCameroonNigeriaMalaysiaThai-Malaysian borderIndonesiaPhilippinesIndiaNepalHong KongVietnamTaiwanChina againour IJNet profile, the investigative storybook in Malaysiaa two-part report from Palawanour latest report from Myanmarlocal editions in Indonesia and Belgium, insights into a smuggling syndicate, and podcasts.