It is our honor to nominate “The Pangolin Reports: Trafficked to Extinction” for the Online Journalism Awards as a trailblazing collaboration among newsrooms in Asia and Africa.
We documented the illicit trade of pangolins, the world’s most trafficked animal – a subject which has been underreported so far and which was widely unknown to the general public until the pandemic brought the trade to spotlight – from roadside poachers in Cameroon and Nigeria and Southeast Asia to prisons in transit hubs like Kathmandu and Hong Kong to restaurant kitchens in Myanmar and pharmaceutical companies in China.
This collaboration included more than 40 journalists from across Asia and from Africa. We met the poachers, the traders and the consumers and told their stories. It lasted from late 2018 to Sept. 2019, when we published a shared report and has since been ongoing.
Across the illicit supply chain, we found ties to law enforcement and drug syndicates, rebel groups, and corrupt local governments. We found artisinal poachers but also that the poaching and illegal trade of this small, scaly anteater is linked to criminal syndicates that cooperate and compete to meet demand in China. We also met indigenous communities who stop the trade and a training effort in Taiwan to turn poachers into protectors of wildlife. In the Philippines, we told the story of how local officials could not curb trafficking because they feared about undermining their chances of reelection. In Indonesia, we tied the trade to a leading drug lord.
To do all of this, we shared reporting openly among each other and built our own datasets to find evidence of smuggling routes, law enforcement loopholes, pricing, and smuggling strategies and made it available to each other and the public.
Our submission includes links to selected stories that came out of our collaboration. In total, we published more than a hundred stories on the topic, and also assisted other reporters as much as we could when the story became of larger public interest during the pandemic.