Last week while traveling in Gabon, we sat down for lunch. I ordered veggies and rice and Sal ordered chicken. Once our dishes were served another dish was brought to the table. Neither of us knew what it was, but it was presented as a local dish. I made a video of Sal eating it, which included a picture of a Giant Pangolin, an animal I had never heard of, it was in french so I assumed the name was different in English, in fact, I called it an armadillo.
Following the posting of the video, it was brought to my attention that the Pangolin, which has a variety of species ranges from vulnerable to endangered. As you can imagine once I learned of this I was shocked and removed the video from my page. Had we known, Sal never would’ve eaten it and I never would’ve filmed the video and would have taken the opportunity to have a discussion with the people we were with about the plight of the pangolin.
I, in no way, want to contribute to the extinction of any vulnerable or endangered animals, no matter where they are in the world.
I have done more research on pangolin and wanted to share it with you. There are three types of pangolin in Gabon, the Giant Pangolin, has been legally protected since 1987, however, this is not the case with the other two species of pangolin, which are often hunted for bushmeat, with regulations in place (Information taken from Eyes on Environment). The Giant Pangolin is not endangered, but rather vulnerable, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This is still a scary classification for these animals. I am sharing a video below that @susan_scott shared with me on Twitter. It offers a lot of information on the plight of the pangolin. I encourage you to do more research on this animal to learn more about conservation efforts and ways that you can support these efforts.
What ensued after I posted the video on my Instagram stories, were a series of online attacks that I found baffling. I was accused of eating an endangered animal, rather than what it was, I unknowingly filmed someone eating an animal, which I knew nothing about. Those who wrote a blogpost about it knew this information yet choose to make an incendiary headline about me in an attempt to shame me, rather than teach me.
I do not check my DMs very often, my followers know this, so when I had chance to check them I was appalled by what I read. I am including some of the screenshots below, these are only three of the countless horrible things that I read. I was firstly appalled to find out that this animal was an endangered species and that I contributed in the lack of understanding around its status. I was secondly appalled to read so many abusive messages from those who have charged themselves with saving this animal and spreading awareness about its plight. This was a teachable moment, but several people chose to attack my character rather than teach me about something I clearly know nothing about.
Since the incident I have taken a step away from Instagram because the incident severally affected my emotional and mental health. I wanted to take the time to process everything and find the right way to educate my audience.
The beauty of travel is that you get to learn about different countries and cultures. It is impossible to know everything about everything which is why I love traveling and also the community that I have built on Instagram because we all get the chance to learn from each other every single day. If you have knowledge you should seek to share it with others in a positive way because negative reinforcement rarely works to educate others. Furthermore, if we care and love animals, we should show the same respect for human beings, in particular strangers.