Nature (Season 36) – The World’s Most Wanted Animal

Air date: 05/23/2018

Nature: The World’s Most Wanted Animal

Season 36 finale premieres Wednesday, May 23 at 8 pm on PBS  (check local listings)

Synopsis:

Pangolins are often described as “the most endangered animal you’ve never heard of.” The world’s only scaly mammal, pangolins are now trafficked at a higher rate than rhinos, elephants and tigers combined, for medicinal use in China, Thailand and Vietnam. Very little is known about even their most basic biology, and this is hampering conservation efforts – pangolins almost always die in captivity. In Namibia, conservationist Maria Diekmann found herself on the frontline of the battle to save these wanted animals after unexpectedly becoming a surrogate mother to an orphaned baby pangolin named Honey Bun. On an emotional journey, Diekmann travels to Asia to better understand the global issues facing pangolins, before joining forces with a Chinese megastar to help build a campaign to bring awareness to the plight of these surprisingly charming creatures.

Short TV Listing

Meet the pangolin, an almost unheard-of creature, yet the most trafficked animal in the world.

Long TV Listing

Join conservationist Maria Diekmann in the crusade to save pangolins, the most trafficked animal in the world. Learn more about these scaly yet endearing mammals whose basic biology remains a mystery, hampering conservation efforts.

Running Time: 60 minutes

Noteworthy Facts:

  • There are eight species of pangolin in the world – four species live in Asia and four species live in Africa.
  • Pangolins are the world’s only truly scaly mammals. Their scales, just like human fingernails, are made from keratin.
  • Pangolin scales are one of the oldest traditional Chinese medicines. As recently as last year, pangolin scales were listed by practitioners as a cure for cancer symptoms, and scales from historic stockpiles can be legally prescribed in hospitals.
  • In the last 20 years, the demand for pangolin scales has decimated the species’ numbers worldwide. Today, a pangolin will be taken from the wild every five minutes. It’s estimated that around 100,000 African pangolins were taken in the past 12 months.
  • In Namibia, conservationist Maria Diekmann is on the frontline of the battle to save these animals. Through her organization called The Rare & Endangered Species Trust (REST), Maria has rescued more than 50 Cape pangolins.

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • Maria Diekmann found pangolin Honey Bun in 2015, when she came across her mother who had been seriously abused. Honey Bun suffered no damage whatsoever, thanks to her mother’s protection. However, her mother was so traumatized that she escaped, and Honey Bun has been in Maria’s care ever since.
  • Pangolins eat millions of insects in a year. Maria Diekmann and Steven Mandja, another caretaker at REST, walk with Honey Bun for up to five hours a day as she forages for ants. She has no teeth but uses her long, sticky tongue to lap them up. On one of these walks, evidence of snare traps are found.
  • Maria travels to Vietnam to meet with Thai Van Nguyen, a world leader in pangolin conservation. Thai runs an organization called Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, based in the forests of the country’s oldest national park, dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating pangolins. During Maria’s visit, 15 Sunda pangolins are confiscated near the Vietnamese border with China. The team assesses the surviving animals for any sign of injury, and finds that one young male’s back leg has been severed, most likely by a snare. He must undergo a life-saving operation.
  • With over 80 million online followers, Chinese megastar Angelababy has been using her considerable public profile to seek help for pangolins. Maria meets with Angelababy to introduce her to Honey Bun, and together they produce a new global charity campaign for pangolins. The campaign launch video was viewed online in China over 25 million times in just the first day.

Series Overview:

Nature brings the wonders of natural history to millions of American viewers. Nature has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 18 Emmys and three Peabody Awards.

Production Credits:

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer. Bill Murphy is Series Producer. The World’s Most Wanted Animal is a co-production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC and BBC Studios in association with WNET. The documentary is produced and directed by Victoria Bromley. Edited by Sam Rogers. Cinematography by Sue Gibson and Graham MacFarlane. Original Music by Jean-Marc Petsas. Narrated by Nora Young. For BBC, Roger Webb is Series Editor, Rowan Crawford is Senior Producer, and Tom Jarvis is Development Producer.

Underwriters:

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Halmi Family in memory of Robert Halmi, Sr., Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, the Bradley L. Goldberg Family Foundation, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.

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About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Theater Close-Up, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere: www.thirteen.org/passport.

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Photos
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More than 100,000 pangolins are thought to have been taken from the wild in the last year. Credit: © Maria Diekmann

Baby Cape pangolin riding through the bush on its mother’s back. Credit: © Maria Diekmann

Almost nothing is known about the lives of pangolins in the wild, yet they have become the most trafficked wild mammal in the world. Credit: © Maria Diekmann

Pangolins have a sticky tongue as long as their bodies which they use to lap up ants, eating millions of insects each year. Credit: © Maria Diekmann

Conservationist Maria Diekmann has been raising Honey Bun for release since the orphan pangolin was a baby. They have formed a unique bond, giving Maria a rare insight into natural pangolin behavior. Credit: © Sanne Christophersen

Pangolins roll into a ball when threatened. Their hard scales can protect them from a lion’s bite but offer no defense against poachers. Credit: © Victoria Bromley

The pangolin is the world’s only truly scaly mammal. Their scales are made of keratin, like human fingernails. Credit: © Victoria Bromley

Pangolins have walked the planet for more than 40 million years, but in the last two decades the demand for pangolin scales has decimated their numbers. Credit: © Victoria Bromley

In the last 5 years, conservationist Maria Diekmann has rescued more than 50 Cape pangolins. Credit: © Victoria Bromley

Maria Diekmann, founder of the Rare & Endangered Species Trust (REST) in Namibia, has devoted her life to saving pangolins. Credit: © Victoria Bromley

Chinese superstar Angelababy is a model, actress, and singer with over 80 million online followers. As an advocate for pangolins, Angelababy is hoping to reduce the demand for pangolin products in China. Credit: © BBC