Endangered pangolins returned to the wild after being saved from traffickers in Vietnam

By Pham Huong   November 15, 2016 | 09:54 pm PT
Endangered pangolins returned to the wild after being saved from traffickers in Vietnam
A pangolin climbs up a tree in northern Vietnam after being rescued from traffickers. Photo by Save Vietnam’s Wildlife
Nine of the animals died from serious injuries in the wake of an excruciating journey.

A conservation group in northern Vietnam released 46 critically endangered Javan pangolins back into the wild on Monday after putting tracking devices on each one of them.

The pangolins were among a pack of 61 rescued from traffickers in early October. They have received care at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, a national conservation group that operates a carnivore and pangolin reserve in Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh Province, 90 kilometers (50 miles) south of Hanoi.

However, nine of them died from serious injuries in the wake of an excruciating journey during which they were packed in tight boxes close to an ice box on a truck.

The conservation group has returned 99 Javan pangolins to the wild in the past three months. It has received an increasing number of the scaly animals rescued from trafficking, and is setting up more facilities to accommodate them.

Nguyen Van Thai, director of the group, said rescuing pangolins and returning them to the wild is just a small part of a bigger picture.

“Vietnam needs to improve law enforcement to completely end the consumption of pangolins, otherwise this precious species will be lost,” Thai said.

Tran Quang Phuong, a manager at the group, said the chances of pangolins surviving in confined spaces are low, and many of them have died at the center after being rescued.

A controversial rule in Vietnam requires wild animals saved from traffickers to be kept as criminal evidence for quite a long time before they can eventually be released back into the wild.

At least 30 pangolins received by the organization died last year due to the lengthy paperwork process. At another rescue center in Hanoi, 300 pangolins have also died in similar circumstances, including at least 80 this year.

Vietnam is home to Javan and Chinese pangolin species, both of which are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, and their populations have fallen rapidly in recent years.

Vietnam classes the smuggling of pangolins and their parts as illegal, but trafficking remains rampant.

Around the world, the defenseless anteaters are the biggest victim of wildlife trafficking as the scales that cover their body are believed by many to be an effective treat for conditions such as psoriasis and poor circulation in traditional Chinese medicine, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

The scales are also used to make boots and shoes while their meat is considered a delicacy by some.

An estimated one million of the animals have been poached from Asian and African forests over the past decade, putting them on the list of species at the highest risk of extinction, AFP said in a recent report.

Related news:

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3 pangolins die from hellish trafficking journey in Vietnam; 58 others rescued

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