By Rhishja Cota-Larson
During the months of August through October 2013, at least 2,804 pangolins were recorded in 15 pangolin trafficking incidents across seven countries. This conservative figure represents both live and dead pangolins, as well as pangolin scales, destined for the illegal trade.
Of the grisly total, 2,364 pangolins were represented by seizures (pangolins and scales) in Vietnam, where the environmental police have been working hard to step up their game. However, sensitization of the country’s judicial system to wildlife crime still needs considerable improvement.
Considering that seizures represent a mere ten to twenty percent of actual trafficking volume, these figures suggest that an estimated 105,410 — 210,820 pangolins have been plundered from the wild in Asia and Africa since 2011 — all because of myths about alleged health benefits of consuming pangolin scales and pangolin flesh.
On October 22, 49 live pangolins were discovered when traffic police on National Highway 1 in Phu Yen’s Dong Hoa District “chased a suspicious ambulance” (plate 57M-9017) which turned out to be smuggling the animals. Tuoi Tre News identified the driver as Le Van Tung from central Nghe An Province, who claimed that he had been hired to transport the pangolins from Ho Chi Minh City to “a northern province”.
The haul included both baby and adult pangolins, weighing from one to 10.4 kg each, for a total of 256 kilograms. All of the pangolins were in poor health. Vietnam’s Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program notes that the pangolins were supposed to be transferred to the Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station, but instead, the provincial People’s Committee used a loophole in the law to allow the pangolins to be “sold to qualified wildlife breeding centers” — meaning that the pangolins will be sold right back into the illegal trade. More....