Over 6 Tons of Pangolins Seized in Vietnam Port

A horrifying haul of more than 800 pangolins was discovered in Vietnam. Photo: istockphoto.com
A horrifying haul of hundreds of pangolins was discovered in Vietnam. Photo: istockphoto.com

Customs officials in the Vietnamese port city of Hai Phong have seized 6.2 tonnes (nearly 7 tons) of pangolins which were discovered in a 40-foot cargo container shipped from Indonesia.

This horrifying haul may have contained more than 800 pangolins — which were said to be still alive when they were found.

The discovery was made during the week of August 4, 2013. Listed on the customs declaration as the importer is Long Thanh Trading, Investment and Development Company, headquartered in northern Quang Ninh province’s Mong Cai town, with the shipment declared as “fish, fish bones and fish stomach”, according to Tuoi Tre News.

The company had submitted the customs declaration to bring the container into the port to temporarily import and re-export.

Although the final destination of the smuggled pangolins was not confirmed, it could be China — the world’s largest consumer of pangolins and their scales. The scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine (there is no scientific evidence to support the efficacy of pangolin scales) and their flesh and fetuses are eaten as “delicacies”.

Unfortunately, Vietnamese authorities have frequently undermined their own work by auctioning off confiscated pangolin shipments — instead of destroying dead pangolins and scales — which end up re-entering the illegal market. Since it is unlikely that there were any survivors in this latest seizure, we recommend that the haul is destroyed as soon as possible.

An estimated 91,390 — 182,780 pangolins were victims of the illegal trade during the period of 2011 through August 1, 2013.

A conservative estimate ... Image © Annamiticus
A conservative estimate … Image © Annamiticus

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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.