Monday, May 21, 2018

Nature: The World’s Most Wanted Animal

They are considered the only truly scaly mammal, but if you are not already familiar with the pangolin, you may not have much time to get to know them. Currently, they are considered the most endangered and most illegally trafficked animals on the globe. However, pangolins have a few friends out there, including dedicated preservationist Maria Diekmann and possibly the most famous woman in the world, Angelababy (trust me, nobody in Hollywood can touch her social media numbers). From Namibia and Vietnam to Hong Kong, activist race to save the pangolin in Victoria Bromley’s The World’s Most Wanted Animal (promo here), which airs this Wednesday on PBS as part of the current season of Nature.

Diekmann is pretty the boots on the ground when it comes to saving the African pangolin in Namibia. She gets the call when authorities recover live pangolins. Even with their scales, they are a surprisingly cute little creature, sort of like armadillos that walk upright on their hindlegs, but with more personality. Tragically, pangolin scales have been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine and there is also demand in Chinese restaurants for their meat. As a result, the Chinese market has largely decimated the Asian species of pangolins, despite the best efforts of Thai Van Nguyen and his pangolin rescue colleagues at the nonprofit Save Vietnam’s Wildlife—and they are fast depleting the African population, as well.

Essentially, Most Wanted is divided into two parts. The first focuses on Diekmann’s work in Namibia, giving special attention to Honey Bun, a pangolin she saved as a baby. The second chronicles Diekmann’s travels in Asia, learning from her Vietnamese colleagues’ experiences and strategizing PR outreach with Angelababy. Clearly, the only way to save the pangolins for the long term is to make the consumption of their products socially unacceptable in the Chinese market. One of the results of their meeting was this stark PSA, posted on her social networks. (For the record, Maggie Q is also a pangolin ambassador, so pay attention.)

Throughout Most Wanted, Bromley and Diekmann definitely drive home the urgency of the situation (which is indeed dire), but the pangolins are still quite entertaining to watch, especially Honey Bun. They are their own best advocates, but it does not hurt to have Angelababy cranking up her star-power. Cinematographers Sue Gibson and Graham MacFarlane also capture some stunning shots of the natural landscapes of Africa and Vietnam. There is actually quite a bit in this film to see—and protect. Highly recommended for the message and the visuals, The World’s Most Wanted Animal premieres this Wednesday (5/23), on PBS’s Nature.