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A Talk on the Wild Side.

MENTOR-POP Fellows Support Pangolins at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii

MENTOR-POP fellows with Dan AsheLinh Nguyen Ngoc Bao and Jonas Kambale Nyumu with Dan Ashe, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo by USFWS

The IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii brought together more than 10,000 participants from 192 countries last month to discuss and find ways to address the most urgent conservation and sustainable development challenges such as wildlife trafficking. Jonas Kambale Nyumu and Linh Nguyen Ngoc Bao attended the IUCN Congress on behalf of MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins), an 18-month program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Zoological Society of London. Based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, MENTOR-POP is developing a trans-disciplinary team of nine early-career Central African and Asian conservation practitioners with academic and field-based training and internships to champion the conservation of the three Congo Basin pangolin species. All eight species of pangolins in the world are in peril due to international trafficking for their scales and meat. In perhaps a turning point, pangolins received increased protections last week under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Linh’s report on IUCN:

I’m an early-career conservationist. The IUCN World Conservation Congress was my first experience and chance to interact with many experts from all over the world who believe in, and are willing to support, young professionals like me. In my native Vietnam and now as a Fellow with MENTOR-POP , I have been working toward pangolin conservation for a long time. At the IUCN Congress, I was so excited to meet in person with pangolin experts: Dan Challender (IUCN-Species Survival Commission Pangolin Specialist Group), Thai Van Nguyen (Save Vietnam’s Wildlife), Darren Pietersen (African Pangolin Working Group) and others. They are all amazing and I’m touched to see how they put their efforts to great use to conserve pangolins. What I learned from them will help a lot in developing our group project, which will be implemented in Cameroon to protect those species from Central Africa.

white-bellied pangolin in treeThe white-bellied pangolin is one of three pangolin species found in Central Africa. Photo by Frank Kohn/USFWS

Jonas and I presented about challenges of pangolin conservation in Central Africa and the MENTOR-POP initiative to address threats facing the species at a session focused on wildlife trafficking organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We were thrilled to engage with conservationists from around the world and raise awareness about the plight of pangolins in Central Africa.

IUCN CEC Young Professional AwardeesLinh and Diogo Veríssimo receives IUCN CEC Young Professional Awards. Photo by Society for Conservation Biology

One of the highlights for me was receiving an IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) Young Professional Award. The CEC Award recognizes young professionals who conduct excellent work in conservation through education or communication, and who work to advance opportunities for inspiring others. This award covered my participation at the Congress. It was an honor to be publicly recognized at the plenary session.

I was eager to finally meet with my IUCN CEC family, which offered me a great privilege to attend the congress. I learned more about new conservation approaches that I can apply as the MENTOR-POP Team and I raise awareness about pangolins and pilot test efforts to reduce consumer desire for pangolins in Cameroon. When I made a speech about my work on pangolins at the award ceremony, many people were interested in it and for some of them, it was the first time they heard about these unique animals and the threats facing them. Without doubt, pangolins need more conservation attention and investment. I am happy to lend them my voice. 

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