More than 30 pangolins rescued from traffickers in Vietnam have died over the past two months after being kept in cages for a long time for legal proceedings, local media reported.
Tran Quang Phuong, manager of the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program based at Cuc Phuong national park in northern Vietnam, told Tuoi Tre newspapers the deaths of the endangered animals could have been avoided.
Phuong said around 70 other pangolins at his center are strong enough to return to nature now, but they still have to wait for their release because of pending trafficking cases.
Vietnam has rules to protect the endangered species, but at the same time its cumbersome legal process has threatened the survival of the solitary animal, which is not used to living in captivity and near another.
It also costs more than VND1.4 million (US$63) to feed a pangolin each month.
Phuong said the legal problem applies to all kinds of wildlife.
“We have suggested the authorities create new policies that allow wild animals to return to nature sooner, but they have not done anything.”
Nguyen Van Thai, another executive of the program, said police can open a criminal trafficking case with photos of the animals and related information and the animals do not need to stay.
A lawyer in Ho Chi Minh City said that in principal, animals in a trafficking case have to serve as crime evidence until the case is closed.
But there’s a term for “vulnerable exhibits” in the Penal Code and investigators can use that to release the animals early.
Vietnam bans the trade of pangolins and any products made from the animal.
The animal’s meat is considered a delicacy by some while its scales are used to make boots and shoes and in traditional Chinese medicine to treat conditions such as psoriasis and poor circulation. Such treatments have not been backed by adequate scientific evidence.