An Introduction to PCF's Director and Wildlife Trafficking

An Introduction to PCF's Director and Wildlife Trafficking

Sam Matthews

By Araluen "Azza" Schunmann, Director of the Pangolin Crisis Fund

Hi everyone, I’m Araluen "Azza" Schunmann and I’m the Director of the Pangolin Crisis Fund (PCF). I’m a former UK diplomat and a counter-wildlife trafficking expert. I’ve spent time living in Kenya and training rangers on how to tackle wildlife crime, as well as three years helping the Elephant Crisis Fund manage their counter-wildlife trafficking grant portfolio. I’ve also acted as an advisor to United for Wildlife’s Finance Taskforce concerning financial investigations into wildlife traffickers.

PCF Director Azza Schunmann in the field.

It’s been just over a year since I began leading the PCF and I’m so glad to be here because pangolins are in need of some serious help. Pangolins are the world’s most heavily trafficked mammals, and in the last five years alone, over 700,000 lbs of pangolin scales have been seized by law enforcement agencies around the world. We don’t know exactly how many pangolins this equates to because different species of pangolins come in very different sizes. Giant pangolins that live in Central and West Africa can weigh as much as 70 lbs, whereas black-bellied pangolins that share some of the same habitat as their giant cousins can weigh as little as 4 lbs. 

A black-bellied pangolin in the Central African Republic.

Anita Mishra

However, we do know that these seizures contain hundreds of thousands of pangolins—and the bad news doesn't end there. These are only the scales that have been seized by law enforcement agencies; the real number of poached pangolins is far higher as many shipments reach their destination without being detected.

So, what is the PCF doing about it?

A multi-ton pangolin and ivory seizure by customs authorities in Hong Kong.

Alex Hofford

Well, there’s big cause for hope! Here at the Pangolin Crisis Fund, we support projects that are actively saving pangolins in three critical areas. Firstly, we fund projects that are helping to protect pangolins and their habitats from a whole variety of threats, including poaching and habitat destruction. 

Secondly, we fund counter-wildlife trafficking projects from grantees who work with law enforcement agencies to conduct intelligence-led investigations that disrupt high level wildlife traffickers. We also fund projects that care for pangolins that have been rescued from traffickers. These survivors are often highly traumatized from their ordeal, so we support rehabilitation programs that culminate in releasing the pangolins back into the wild and monitoring their safety once released. 

An orphaned pangolin pup, rescued from poachers, being rehabilitated in Taiwan.

Suzi Eszterhas

Thirdly, we support projects that are working to eliminate the demand for pangolin scales and meat, as well as other pangolin products. This demand is the ultimate driver of pangolin poaching and reducing it is the key to protecting pangolins for the long term.

If demand is eliminated, pangolin poaching will reduce and recovery will be possible.

Francois Meyer/African Pangolin Working Group

I’m excited to say that we’re making real progress—and not just for pangolins! As many other species are poached and trafficked along with pangolins by the same networks, the PCF is helping many species and entire ecosystems by funding initiatives that prevent poaching and disrupt wildlife trafficking networks. The PCF is dedicated to protecting pangolins and their habitats, and with your continued support, we can give pangolins their best chance at survival. I am eager to continue guiding the Pangolin Crisis Fund toward supporting the most effective projects in the areas of most need across Africa and Asia, and looking forward to sharing more of our grantees’ successes with you to keep hope alive for this remarkable species.