I was doing some early morning grocery shopping this morning, and I was buying avocados. Above the avocado bin were two types of produce bags: a roll of the thin plastic bags, and a stack of bags made of recycled paper.
This might seem like a tangential story to begin a post about World Pangolin Day with, but bear with me for just a moment.
If you read this blog, you know which one I took. And I only took a paper sack because I’d forgotten to bring along the ones we save for re-use.
A man next to me reached past me and grabbed the end of the plastic roll. He pulled, and fought to separate the bag from the roll.
While I was being very picky about choosing avocados with just the right level of ripeness (we Californians are avocado snobs), he went about trying to get the bag open.
As he struggled, he glanced at me, watching me squeeze all the good avocados before he could even open his produce bag.
In a fit of unsolicited do-gooderism, I used that moment to say not only were paper bags easier, but they didn’t take months or decades or centuries to decompose (depending on the kind of plastic). It’s such a small choice to make in the produce aisle, with such a long-term impact.
Of course he went with the plastic bag. But maybe next time he won’t.
Which brings me to the pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater.
Every year, I mark World Pangolin Day, the third Saturday of February. I’ve written on their natural history, why they are unusual, that they are the most trafficked endangered mammal in the world, and that the medicinal uses for their scales are of little more value than eating one’s own fingernails or hair.
I even invented a cocktail called the Happy Pangolin.
In the end, it comes down to making choices.
Legislative choices that are the underpinning for the protection of any endangered species; personal choices that cut the demand that drives the market for poached animals.
A new smartphone application, Wildlife Witness, allows tourists and locals alike to safely report wildlife crime that involves pangolins and other endangered animals, from trafficking to restaurant sales.
The good news is, choices are being made that could help the pangolin survive, provided those choices are implemented quickly enough.
The choices we make every day add up. Let’s keep making them.