One of Africa’s oddest creatures stars in a locally produced film which features its pending demise.
Eye of the Pangolin, by award-winning South African filmmakers Bruce Young (Blood Lions) and Johan Vermeulen (Kalahari Tails), manages to pack anger, laughter and despair for the creature’s survival into a far too short 45-minute film.
If you knew nothing about pangolins, this is the film to see.
“The Sotho/Pedi people call it Kgaga, Tsonga people call it Xikwaru, it’s the mascot of the PSL team Baroka FC, and also a totem for a lot of the people in the Ga-Mphahlele area from where that team originates,” said environmental scientist Fortunate Phaka.
Also known as the scaly anteater or ietermagog in Afrikaans, it is the most trafficked animal in the world thanks to the demand for its keratin scales in east Asian traditional medicine markets.
“Growing up in the bush, I had never seen one in the wild,” said Vermeulen.
Because of growing notoriety over the illegal trade in pangolin, Vermeulen began to take notice.
“Knowing of Professor Raymond Jansen of the African Pangolin Working Group, I decided to connect with them and see if there was an opportunity to create a film to raise awareness,” Vermeulen said.
Young said he and Vermeulen had previously worked together.
“He came to me and said, ‘let’s make a pangolin film. That was about two years ago and a great friend and owner of a travel company gave me the money to start the promo,” Young said.
Once that happened, the money began to flow in.
A traditional source of protein for many, habitat loss, poaching, a slow birth rate and a self-protection mechanism which makes it its own worst enemy, the pangolin is being hunted to death.
Singapore this month recovered more than 25 tons from traffickers. Eye of the Pangolin notes it takes 1,900 pangolins to make one ton of scales.
In February, Malaysian authorities discovered 1,800 boxes full of frozen pangolins stuffed inside three refrigerated containers, 572 more frozen pangolins in six freezers, 61 live pangolins in cages and in a car boot, and 361kg of pangolin scales, according to wildlife trade monitoring NGP, traffic.org.
“I would like people to take a look at the wild world around them and reassess their relationship with it – then there’s a chance we’ll save it,” said Young.
Eye of the Pangolin will be released free to view on YouTube tomorrow.