Kate on Conservation

Speaking up for pangolins through art and technology

This World Pangolin Day, I’m pleased to be exploring the role of creative storytelling through design, fashion and technology. You may have already noticed that I have a strong passion for conservation communications; and believe the power of storytelling is an instrumental tool in our conservation efforts to save endangered species, such as pangolins.

I had the opportunity to chat with Azi Sharif, founder of luxury fashion company, FashWand, and passionate advocate for bringing an end to the illegal wildlife trade.

Azi Sharif, founder of luxury fashion company, FashWand, and home decor brand, Wildlife Jewels

This World Pangolin Day, Azi has launched an exclusive collection taking inspiration from natural beauty of the Pangolin. From this collection, FashWand will contribute 20% of the proceeds to Pangolin Conservations programs. I was excited to find out more:

Interview with FashWand Founder, Azi Sharif

Kate: Pangolins are some of the most incredibly unique animals, yet they are the most trafficked mammal in the world. How did you first become interested in their plight?

Azi: I first saw a Pangolin photo in 2015 on social media for world pangolin day. I was instantly inspired by the Pangolin and their unique scales, and I couldn’t believe when I saw they are being killed for their scales. I researched more about pangolins and created a pangolin drawing for World Pangolin Day 2015 and shared the drawing with insights about pangolins to raise awareness.

FashWand glass coaster, inspired by the original pangolin art work

Kate: What do you love most about these animals?

Azi: I love how incredibly special and unique Pangolins are. Pangolins are prehistoric and been around for 80 million years, they are the only mammal with their body full of beautiful and overlapping scales, each scale has slightly different shape, they are a natural work of art and look as if they come from an imaginary fairy tale world.

pangolin on the ground

Kate: How have you incorporated pangolins into your work?

Azi: I painted the pangolin for my Wildlife Jewels® collection of paintings and transformed the artwork into home decoration pieces and at FashWand we are developing a fashion collection inspired by the beautiful Pangolin.

FashWand Golden Citrine: The Pangolin Glass Coaster

Our Pangolin collection fashion pieces include tops and dresses locally made in Southern California that are composed of eco-friendly fabrics.

Each fashion item shares the beauty of the Pangolin and is designed to raise awareness for the Pangolin.

FashWand Golden Citrine – The Pangolin Bamboo Appliqué Tunic

With the sale of each item, 20% of proceeds are donated to pangolin protection foundations and a card comes with each item that shares insights, the critical status of the pangolin and some ways that individuals can help Pangolins.

Kate: Have you learnt anything new about pangolins from the creative process of your work?

Azi: I have learned so much about Pangolins during the creative process. Prior to starting my Pangolin inspired designs, I discovered more details about the Pangolins body structure and the science behind their scales.

Pangolins have as many as 1000 scales, each one of their paws has five toes, and their forefeet have three long, curved, claws used to demolish the nests of termites and ants and to dig nesting and sleeping burrows.

pangolin taxidermy

Also, for FashWand fashion pieces I selected a golden yellow color for the gemstone that resembles the Pangolin, and I selected the fabric colors based on that.

I discovered that the mature adult Pangolins are light brown, olive, and dark brown in color, while young are pale brown or pink in color. Another interesting fact I learned throughout the creative process is that Pangolins are completely toothless, solitary and their mechanism of defense is to roll up into a ball and wait until the danger goes away.

Kate: Why is it important to protect this species?

Pangolins are shy, adorable, and harmless animals. It is beyond sad and unimaginable that more than 1 million of these amazing animals have been poached in the last 10 years.

Re-imagine-nature -Thousands-of-slaughtered-pangolins-lie-in-a-pit-before-being-burnt-in-Medan-Indonesia
Thousands of slaughtered pangolins lie in a pit before being burnt in Medan, Indonesia.Credits: Paul Hilton ILCP.

At least 1 pangolin is poached every 5 minutes. The poachers use intelligent trafficking routes across the globe and use the advancements in technology to sell their Pangolin products online.

All 8 species of Pangolins are found in Asia and Africa (4 in Asia: Chinese, Sunda, Indian, and Philippine pangolins; 4 in Africa: the ground pangolin, the giant pangolin, the white-bellied pangolin, and black-bellied pangolin) and they are now all at risk of extinction.

Pangolins are killed for medicine, luxury goods, and food for status with the highest demand in China and Vietnam. Pangolin scales are also made into powder and called medicine. However, there is no scientific basis, in fact, pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same material as our fingernails.

The pangolin pit by Paul Hilton
The pangolin pit by Paul Hilton, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016

In Asia, some people eat Pangolins to demonstrate social status. Recently poachers are targeting more and more of the African pangolins. In addition to being killed by poachers they are in decline due to habitat loss, and pangolins reproduce slowly, at a rate of only one baby per year.

Saving Pangolins is not only for the good of the majestic Pangolins but for all animals and all other endangered species, as Pangolin dealers are part of the same network that kill elephants, tigers, rhinos, and other precious animals.

Pangolin scales, from behind. Photo credit: Geran de Klerk, courtesy of UnSplash

Kate: How can we support the pangolin in our own individual actions?

Azi: We urgently need to develop and implement collaborative global policies to stop wildlife crime. Here are some of my recommendations for ways that you can help:

  • Consult with tech experts who are specialized in cyber security and find ways to track down poachers when they use the internet.
  • Consult with global policy makers and develop global laws that can be enforced and implemented to end wildlife crime.
  • Be alert online and look out for pangolin products report them as soon as you see them.

Kate: Where can we see or support your work, including your new pieces inspired by pangolins?

Azi: You can see my work and find out how you can support my efforts to help save the Pangolin at www.fashwand.com.

The Plight of the Pangolins – World Pangolin Day online talk, brought to you by the Wildlife Blogger Crowd.

Join Kate on Conservation and Azi Sharif, PhD; Founder of the design company FashWand by Azi, and tech company, Wildlife Bots, for a discussion about the Illegal Wildlife Trade and the plight of Pangolins — the world’s most trafficked animal by watching the video below.

We take a look at pangolins as a species, why and how they’ve become the poster-animal for the illegal wildlife trade, and the work that is being done to combat the illegal trade of wild animals and their parts. We also examine how fashion and technology can be used in conservation.

Azi also introduces her pangolin painting and pangolin-inspired fashion designs, and we look at the role of storytelling beyond journalism, and into the more creative fields.

kate on conservation wildlife blog logo

Learn more about Azi Sharif and her work here: https://www.fashwand.com/pages/the-world-of-fashwand

Discover my Top 10 reasons to love pangolins.

Meet other members of the Wildlife Blogger Crowd here.

Learn more about CITES and the Illegal Wildlife Trade:

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