They’ve been called walking artichokes. Children’s author Anna Dewdney has said ‘they look like a little round planet.’ With a tongue as long as its body and a covering of scales, the pangolin is a little known, little studied animal that may be the most trafficked creature on the planet. Placid insectivores, they can simply curl up in a tight ball when faced with predators. Unfortunately, they’re all too easy for humans to pick up, and the popularity of their scales as traditional medicine and their meat as a delicacy has led to high demand for this little creature. Few people know what a pangolin is, and fewer still are motivated to protect an animal whose flesh can reach $350 a kilogram.
Thai van Nguyen has dedicated his life to saving this funny little animal. After success in rescuing and rehabilitating pangolins, Thai became responsible for all activities related to the captive management of carnivores and pangolins as the captive manager at Carnivore & Pangolins Conservation. In 2014, he became founder and executive director of a national non-profit organization called Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. Thai has carried out many research projects both in captivity and in the wild, resulting in him co-authoring many published papers in international scientific journals. He was chosen as one of 40 wildlife heroes in the Wildlife Heroes book, published in the United States in 2012. Thai’s success has stemmed from his devotion to threatened species backed by solid scientific research.
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-Text by Elizabeth Rogers