Vietnam police rescue more than 100 pangolins
News outlets around the world have reported that more than 100 pangolins were found and rescued after a dramatic car chase on a major highway in Vietnam. These animals were found tied up in bags with no access to food or water. And while five pangolins were lost, 113 managed to survive these harrowing conditions and are now being cared for by conservationist groups in Vietnam.
Unfortunately, scenes like these are common. In fact, pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world, with populations rapidly declining due to a growing demand for their meat and scales. The species are the only mammals completely covered in scales, which provides them an effective defense against all their predators except humans. It is estimated that more than one million pangolins have been taken from the wild and illegally traded over the past decade alone.
Vietnam in particular seizes pangolins and their parts and products from cargo containers, cars, buses, and trucks on a near regular basis. In October 2016, 61 pangolins were found hidden in the back of a truck. The next month, about 150 pangolins were found in sacks on a bus, most of them alive. In December, 70 of the animals were found stuffed in the trunk of a car.
Although most poached pangolins are thought to be sold in Vietnam and China, American demand contributes to the crisis with more than 26,000 pangolin products seized by customs in the United States between 2004 and 2013.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been working to combat this crisis and protect the species before it is too late. In 2016, IFAW worked with country representatives from across the globe, along with scientists, conservationists, and NGOs to successfully protect pangolins from international commercial trade at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Conference of the Parties in South Africa. This initiative resulted in all eight pangolin species being listed on Appendix I of CITES, which means it is now essentially illegal to trade pangolins or their parts across country borders.