Four Northamptonshire school pupils put their best foot forward this weekend with a sponsored walk around Pitsford Reservoir to raise awareness and funds for the critically endangered Pangolin as part of World Pangolin Day.
The brain-child of 11-year-old Jessica Ideson of Creaton, the walk won the support of Northamptonshire Police and PC Chloe Gillies - who last year led the county’s largest ever successful investigation into the illegal trade of endangered animals. She met the girls at the start of their trek to wish them luck and thank them for their efforts.
Jessica donned a Pangolin outfit and was joined by her sister Phoebe, 9, and friends Maisie Deacon, 12, and Bea Deacon, 10, both from Sywell, in walking the 10km circuit.
After meeting with PC Gillies, the Pangolin Protectors handed out leaflets and talked to other walkers about the plight of the species which is increasingly threatened due to illegal trafficking from Africa, India and South East Asia to China where their scales are mistakenly thought to be a cure all medicine and where they are eaten as a delicacy.
Jessica said: “I am totally obsessed with pangolins and think it is so important to raise awareness of how critically endangered they are. Pangolins are very shy, beautiful and peaceful creatures. They are easily captured by poachers because when scared they roll up into a tight ball, a defence which works against other predators but not humans, who simply pick them up. Pangolins are unique because they are the only scaly mammal, yet their scales are made out of the same thing as human fingernails so there is no evidence they have the medicinal qualities the poachers think they have.
“I was horrified when I read that people in our county were selling pangolin scales. It makes it even more relevant to raise awareness. So many people in the UK have never even heard of a pangolin. Pangolins could go extinct before most people know about their crisis unless we act now. This is one of the reasons why I dressed up as a pangolin - so that people would be interested in what we were doing and would see what they look like.”
Last September PC Gillies lead an investigation into illegal trafficking which resulted in the successful prosecution of a Corby man found to be selling and keeping endangered species for sale including Pangolin scales.
She said: Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world, but not many people have heard of the Pangolin and so that is why Jessica and her friends decided to raise awareness on World Pangolin Day of these vulnerable animals.
“It is wonderful to see young people so passionate about protecting wildlife and I am really pleased to have been invited to join them.”