This article is brought to you by the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). Read our other articles on the National Geographic Voices blog featuring the work of our iLCP Fellow Photographers all around the world.
Text and photos by iLCP Fellow Paul Hilton
Warning: this article contains images that some viewers might find disturbing.
Two days after the discovery and bust of a massive illegal wildlife smuggling operation in Medan, Sumatra, and of 5 tons of slaughtered pangolins, I’m back in a taxi heading out to a huge cleared block of land, several kilometers from the warehouse. The Indonesian National Police and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wildlife Crimes Unit interrupted an important pangolin smuggling operation in the port of Medan, providing black market pangolin meat and scales to traders in China and Vietnam, and now this unimaginable hoard of dead pangolins needs to be destroyed.
It’s 6am; upon arrival I see a pit next to an excavator. I meet the team; nothing really prepares me for what I’m about to see. As I approached the side of the pit, I’m left speechless. Thousands of dead pangolin bodies, some frozen, others defrosted and some in plastic bags. A spokesmen from the police said that pangolins where 4 to 5 deep. According to WCS, I was looking at least three, possibly four thousand in total.
At 9am the National Indonesian Police arrives ahead of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar and after a brief ceremony the pangolins were set alight.
My taxi pulled away from the scene, as I was still trying to comprehend what I had just witnessed.
Help us is spreading the word about the plight of the pangolin by sharing this article, and letting more people know, before the pangolin is gone.
Please donate to Wildlife Conservation Society: http://www.wcs.org/wcs-org/donate.aspx
Other organizations that are working to raise awareness of the pangolin include Save Pangolins and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission Pangolin Specialist Group.
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