A tip-off about a suspicious truck in Vietnam ended up saving 74 lives at the very last minute.
A team of forest rangers stopped the truck on Wednesday in the Hoang Hoa district to examine what was inside. They found dozens of blue bags, tied tightly — and slightly moving.
The bags contained live animals — and not just any live animals. They were pangolins, the most trafficked kind of animal on the planet.
Even though it’s illegal to sell pangolins, which are critically endangered, there’s a continuing high demand for their scales, which are considered medicinal in traditional Eastern medicine, and their meat, which is considered a delicacy. It’s estimated that at least one million pangolins have been killed in the last decade.
Sometimes traffickers are stopped too late to save the animals — shipments of pangolin scales are often uncovered as they make their way east. Thankfully, in this case, these 74 Javan pangolins were intercepted before their lives were lost.
Rescue workers from Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW) rushed to free the animals — who are shy by nature and tend to curl up into little balls when frightened — from the netted bags.
«We try to work with police and rangers to allow us take care of the animals quickly,» SVW wrote, as they shot a live video from inside the storage area where the pangolins were moved after being discovered on a truck.
«Many of the pangolins are very weak and sick from forced feeding and long transporting,» the rescue organization added.
It is not uncommon for traffickers to force-feed pangolins, or even inject them with water, so that they weigh more and are therefore more valuable to buyers.
Those first few moments after rescuing pangolins are critical in getting them what they need.
«After getting all paperwork done, we immediately cut tied net bags to free all the pangolins,» SVW wrote. The first pangolin rescuers removed from one of the bags was just a baby.
While some pangolins showed injuries that need to be treated, most of the pangolins were still healthy.
«Most of them are adult pangolins,» SVW wrote. «They were still strong when we rescued them.»
The animals will undergo health checks to make sure they’re strong enough, and then they’ll be returned to the wild when they’re ready.