Eye of the Pangolin: The Documentary Trying to Save the Most Trafficked Mammals in the World

The Pangolin, quite possibly one of the strangest and most unique animals in the world, is on the verge of extinction.
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Eye of the Pangolin Courtesy of Eye of the Pangolin film

Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world and are facing extinction. To draw attention to these scaly, anteater-like animals, a new wildlife documentary, Eye of the Pangolin, is attempting a unique way to inspire action and conservation: access. Partnering with the non-profit organization Pangolin.Africa, the documentary was made available on YouTube in May 2019. The intention is to reach communities wherever the internet is available, especially African communities, who live near the animal's habitats.

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Over two years, the documentary crew traveled to South Africa, Ghana, Central African Republic and Gabon in search of the four unique species of pangolin, which has never been achieved before. Filmmakers Bruce Young and Johan Vermeulen say that they went into the shoot relatively little about pangolins, but grew to respect and appreciate the animals. Close proximity to the creatures over two years was a crash course in these secretive creatures, learning about their quirks. Johan Vermeulen said, "One thing however that might seem trivial is that they are actually quite fussy eaters. You would think they would eat any type of ant or termite, but they all prefer a specific type of ant."

Pangolins are poached across Africa for their scales, which are used for traditional medicine and their meat, which is a delicacy in China. In April 2019, Singaporean customs officials conducted two separate seizures of 24 tonnes of pangolin scales, which equates to the death of 69,000 pangolins.

Though the documentary focuses less on the illegal trafficking of pangolins, and more on the animals in their natural habitat, the aim of the documentary is to inspire viewers around the world to call for action in ending illegal trafficking and protecting these unique creatures.

In 2019 Bruce Young wrote, directed and produced the ground-breaking documentary Eye of the Pangolin. Filmed on location in South Africa, Ghana, Central African Republic, and Gabon, this powerful documentary is the story of two men on a mission to get all four species of African pangolin on camera for the very first time. Johan Vermeulen is a freelance wildlife and documentary filmmaker and photographer based in South Africa.

The documentary Eye of the Pangolin can be viewed here.

A rescued Temminck’s Ground Pangolin emerging from a crate. Courtesy of Eye of the Pangolin film