Trafficked to Extinction

You're among the first to see our global report on the illegal trafficking of pangolins

Thank you so much for your interest in The Pangolin Reports, the work of a nine-month investigation by more than 30 journalists in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

We’re finally able to share our reporting with you. It will appear in newspapers and online media in several countries today. You’re seeing it here a bit ahead of everyone else:

Pangolins: Trafficked to Extinction

If you don’t have time to read the entire report, we thought we should offer you a serialised version by email. You will also get updates and insights on our reporting as we continue to investigate these wildlife crimes.

We’re starting our newsletter series with answers to five questions we’ve been frequently asked in recent weeks. Answers are by our editor Patrick.

Why pangolins? 

This cute, endangered mammal is among the most heavily trafficked in the world. Fueled by demand primarily from China, its illegal trade value rivals that of ivory or rhino horns. Asian port authorities have confiscated tons of their scales in recent months.

What did you want to achieve here? 

We started out wanting to work together on a story. The pangolin angle was perfect because it required deep local knowledge that many international news organisations don’t have and global reporting that most local media organisations can’t afford. It wasn’t a hard sell. Pangolins look like a wobbling artichoke! (Watch it walk in this video.) Its continued existence is vital for the ecosystems it lives in. And there is absolutely no reason why it should be used for medicine as it doesn’t have medicinal value. 

How did the team work together? 

We mostly communicate via Slack and WhatsApp and collaborated in Google spreadsheets and documents. We used Zoom for conference calls. Not everything went smoothly. My bank did a review of my account because I stupidly transferred funds to smuggling hotspots with the reference “pangolin.” (International trade is banned, and so are of course transfers that look like payments for such illicit trade.) 

What was the hardest part of all of this? 

Journalism can only be planned to a certain extent. There were lots of unpredictable circumstances. That’s one of the best things about the job, but it can also get tiring! The absolutely lowest point was the horrific terror attack in Sri Lanka in April just before we were all supposed to meet there. 

One concern was that we have very, very diverse backgrounds. Just take three of our partners as examples of our diversity: Green Echoes is a print niche publication in Cameroon. R.AGE is a social-first publication in Malaysia. The Nepali Times is a daily paper and news site in Nepal. So finding a common style and voice wasn’t easy but it was a fun process. The mindset and goals were shared among all: uncover the truth and tell that story. So that worked out well, just took a lot of talking among like-minded people. 

What will be your next project? 

We are still working on follow-up stories on pangolins in several countries. We want to produce a mini-documentary and there are some additional investigations as some of my colleagues are still in the field. We hope to bring a new understanding of the illicit global market that has developed to meet the demand in pangolins. We will share our reporting in this newsletter series. You can subscribe here.  

We started out as a Global Environmental Reporting Collective, so I think we can hopefully continue to work along these lines in the future. My fellow editors and I want to assist and empower local journalists anywhere tell the most important global story of all: what we are doing to this planet. 


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You’ll get the first chapter, on China, by e-mail on Saturday.