Prince William Wants You to Play Angry Birds to Help Stop Wildlife Poaching

A tournament created for the popular app is unveiled to help raise awareness of the endangered pangolin’s plight.

(Photo: YouTube)

Nov 18, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, has teamed up with Angry Birds, the world’s most popular game app, to raise awareness about pangolins, one of the world’s most endangered animals.

While the previous sentence couldn’t have been uttered five years ago, things have changed—for England’s royalty, individuals’ phone use, and the pangolin.

So what’s the point?

Prince William, who is president of the conservation group United for Wildlife, wants to put a stop to worldwide illegal poaching, well known for decimating elephant and rhino populations in recent years but devastating other animals as well.

“The humble pangolin, a scaly anteater, is one of the most endangered animals on the planet because of poaching,” Prince William said in a video message. “The pangolin runs the risk of becoming extinct before most people have even heard of him.”

Together, Angry Birds and United for Wildlife have launched a weeklong Angry Birds tournament aimed at raising awareness about the only scaly mammals on the planet.

“It may sound trivial set against other world problems, but it is an important part of the jigsaw, and it’s one that you can do something about,” he added. “By spreading the message about poaching, I hope you can be part of the movement that says no to poached ivory and rhino horn and many other animal parts.”

For the pangolin, the help can’t come soon enough. In the past decade, more than 1 million pangolins have been killed through illegal poaching.

The exact population figures are hard to pin down, given that the secretive animal is adept at keeping itself hidden in its African and Asian habitats.

“With the rhino, you can count exactly how many rhino there are in the bush,” Lisa Hywood said in a video post, speaking for the Zimbabwe-based Tikki Hywood Trust conservation group. “You can’t say, ‘In this area, there are only X amount of pangolin, and we have to protect them’—we don’t know how many pangolin there are.”

But what the wildlife protection group has seen is massive increases in the amount of poaching of pangolins.

Both pangolin scales and pangolin meat are in high demand in Vietnam and China, where the scales are used as dietary supplements and the meat as a luxury dish. While the animal's defense mechanism—rolling up into a ball—keeps it safe in the wild, it’s not much of a defense against poachers.

The Tikki Hywood Trust reported that the number of pangolins poached in Africa in the last month alone was more than the continent saw in the past three years. Another sign of the severity of the crisis is pangolin scale seizure numbers. According to the Tikki Hywood Trust, authorities confiscated 1,490 pounds of pangolin scales in 2013. This year, they’ve seized more than 14,000 pounds—almost a 1,000 percent increase.

The tournament for the Angry Birds game, Roll With the Pangolins, runs Nov. 19–23, and you can play it here.