More than 30 pangolins, an endangered wildlife species, have died at a park in northern Vietnam after living in captivity for months instead of being released to their natural habitat, as a result of law inflexibility, a wildlife official has said.
These wild animals have died over the past two months, as they could not adapt to the captive environment at the Cuc Phuong National Park in the northern province of Ninh Binh, Tran Quang Phuong, who manages the Carnivore & Pangolin Conservation Program, a cooperative program between the park and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, said on Tuesday.
Save Vietnam’s Wildlife is a national non-profit organization, committed to protecting and increasing the population of threatened wildlife in the Southeast Asian country by rescuing endangered animals, protecting their entire population and ensuring their secured habitats, according to its website.
The dead anteaters were among more than 70 pangolins that were rescued from illegal wildlife trade rackets and brought to the reserve three months ago, Phuong said.
The program had proposed that police and forest protection agencies allow the park managers to release these pangolins to nature, but they rejected the proposition because of a law restriction, he elaborated.
Pursuant to current regulations, such animals are the exhibits in criminal cases and they will be released only when the cases have been tried by courts and when a decision on handling them has been issued thereafter, Phuong explained.
A consequence of the wait is the death of the pangolins, Phuong said, adding that the remaining 40 pangolins are in good health condition and will be released to nature when allowed by competent bodies.
The prolonging of the captivity of the pangolins not only poses threats to their life but also cause the park management to incur further expenses for feeding them, according to the program manager.
The cost of food for a pangolin is VND1.4 million (US$63) per month, he said.
Law amendment needed
“We have proposed that competent agencies make a decision urgently to set free these precious, rare and endangered wild animals to nature, but our expectation has not been met,” Phuong said.
Nguyen Van Thai, director of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, said that pangolins confiscated from illegal wildlife trade rings should be sent back to their natural habitat as soon as possible.
This move has been applied in many other countries in the world and Vietnam should make changes to its relevant laws to follow suit.
Competent agencies should keep images of the wild animals seized from illegal traders, along with other necessary information about them, as the evidence for trials, instead of keeping them in captivity like the present.
Lawyer Vo Xuan Trung, from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that animals taken away from wildlife traffickers are considered exhibits, pursuant to the Criminal Procedure Code, and such exhibits can be handled only after the cases are tried.
However, investigative bodies can still issue decisions to release such animals to nature by making the best use of Point d, Item 2, Article 76 of the code, which refers to “exhibits being easy-to-deteriorate or difficult-to-preserve goods,” lawyer Trung said.